When it comes to Covid-related complications, BIPOC are more than four times more likely to need hospitalization or higher-level care.
Published 12/13/2020 | Reading Time 2 min 46 sec
By Erika Stone-Burnett, Senior Staff Writer
Since March, Covid has killed over 300,000 Americans, more than 9-11, the Revolutionary War, Viet Nam, and the Korean War put together. More citizens have died from Covid19 than died in WW1, and we are on track to surpass the 400,000 American deaths in WW2 as well. Meanwhile, these numbers do not account for the racial health disparities and inequities in Covid-related cases and deaths. People of color are diagnosed with Covid19 and die from the virus at disproportionately high rates.
Across the nation, People of Color are infected with Covid19 at 1.5 times the national rate, while in four states, African-Americans are dying of Covid19 at more than twice the rate of their overall population. Comparatively, in 36 states, White folks die from Covid at disproportionately lower rates.
When it comes to Covid-related complications, BIPOC are more than four times more likely to need hospitalization or higher-level care. Black families who receive Medicare, along with Black residents in assisted living facilities, also rank higher in Covid diagnoses and deaths than their white counterparts.
Meanwhile, Covid testing centers are more often located in predominantly white areas, with testing locations in traditionally Black neighborhoods facing a variety of delays and backlogs. In fact, researchers note a “competition” for testing centers, with Black families forced to meet stricter requirements, wait in longer lines, and experience more equipment shortages.
These community barriers, which are referred to as the “social vulnerability scale” by the Centers for Disease Control, creates a delineation between care received by BIPOC citizens and white Americans. This is particularly troubling when it comes to the most at-risk populations, such as pregnant women, and children. Black women are at greater risk of contracting Covid19 during pregnancy, experiencing physical symptoms of Covid, being hospitalized, and needing mechanical ventilation. One in three Black children with Covid are admitted to the Intensive Care Unit.
When it comes to protecting themselves from Covid, BIPOC families also face challenges. More Black adults work at “essential” jobs, which are often low-wage positions that do not allow remote work — and typically don’t provide health insurance, according to a report by Johns Hopkins Hospital. People of Color are also over-represented in institutions in which social distancing is impossible, such as jails and prisons.
Government officials now consider racism and racist policies a public health crisis. Black communities have higher rates of asthma, stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes — and die earlier of these illnesses than their white counterparts. Covid19 has highlighted these discrepancies. People of color with Covid19 are more likely to have pre-existing conditions, be uninsured, and receive less aggressive treatment.
While the first frontline workers have begun receiving the Covid vaccine, there is no official plan to prioritize communities of color, despite Covid19’s impact Black communities. Medical ethicists note that vulnerable populations should receive the vaccine first, calling it an “imperative” to address racial health inequities. However, judicial precedent is unlikely to allow for racial preference for the vaccine, and litigation will only delay the vaccine in reaching Black citizens.
Then there’s the issue of trusting that a government built on racism and economic inequities will protect BIPOC citizens. In 1997, Bill Clinton apologized for the Tuskegee Medical Experiment in which hundreds of Black men were unknowingly infected with syphilis, so that researchers could study the treatment. Black families’ mistrust of the medical establishment is unlikely to ever recover from such a targeted attack. Only 42% of Black citizens plan to get the Covid vaccine as it becomes available.
“COVID-19 has heightened the challenges the Black community faces to achieve equal opportunity and access to services,” stated Dr. Bruce Dart, Director of Tulsa Health Department, which works to acknowledge and address racial disparities in public health. “We need programs and practices that fit the communities where racial and minority groups live, learn, work, play, and worship.” Dr. Dart notes that the Covid19 vaccine is safe and effective, although there is not yet final data on a pediatric dose. “It’s time to stop giving power to Covid19, and work to provide people with the resources and support they need.”