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US: black, Latino communities hit hard by COVID-19

Blacks account for 70% of COVID-19 deaths in Louisiana; 81 of 118 fatalities in Chicago

Michael Hernandez   | 07.04.2020
US: black, Latino communities hit hard by COVID-19 FILE PHOTO

WASHINGTON

As the U.S. struggles with getting a hold on the novel coronavirus outbreak tearing through the country, black and Latino communities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, according to multiple reports released Tuesday.

In Louisiana, a state of 4.6 million in the deep south, blacks have made up a highly disproportionate number of COVID-19 deaths. Despite making up about 32% of the state's population, black Americans have accounted for more than 70% of deaths caused by the virus, according to state data.

Governor John Bell Edwards told reporters at a news conference Monday his state is "seeing disparities" in the number of people who have died from the disease.

"Obviously this is a big disparity, and we are going to try to figure out what that is attributable to and what we can do about that as quickly as possible," he said.

The state data will be updated every week.

Most U.S. states have not provided a racial breakdown of the number of COVID-19 deaths or cases, but at least nine states and the District of Columbia have disclosed data, according to the Hill news website.

Despite having a population that sits at about the middle of all of the U.S.'s 50 states, Louisiana is the fifth hardest-hit by the outbreak with 14,867 confirmed infections, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That toll includes 512 deaths.

The Washington Post newspaper separately reported in Wisconsin, a state where blacks account for just 6% of the population, the group nonetheless makes up almost half of virus-related deaths there with blacks particularly hard-hit in Milwaukee county.

Blacks made up 33 of the 45 deaths, or about 73%, according to the Post.

It found similar patterns in black communities in Chicago, Detroit and New Orleans.

Data from the Chicago Department of Public Health shows blacks make up 81 of the 118 deaths recorded. That is nearly 70% of total fatalities in the U.S.'s third-most-populous city.

“At first, we thought this disease wasn’t about us,” said Yaya Shareef, a Milwaukee mother of four who was interviewed by the Post. “Then, we thought it was elders who should be concerned. Then, it was those whose immune systems were compromised. But now, it’s my neighbors.”

Nationwide, black Americans tend to have higher rates of chronic health conditions like hypertension, heart disease and diabetes, than do white Americans. The same is true for Latinos.

The conditions put individuals at greater risk for death caused by COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

U.S. congressman Joaquin Castro noted the risk factors for Latinos, noting the group is also less likely to have access to health care, according to the Hill.

“Locally, we are already seeing evidence that communities of color, including immigrant communities, have higher rates of coronavirus cases, even though testing is still not widely available,” Castro, who is the chairman of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus, told the Hill.

“We also know that Latino communities are especially vulnerable since they are more likely to be un- or underinsured, do not have equal access to health care services and less than 1 in 5 Latino workers can work from home,” he added.

The Centers for Disease Control and Preventions, which releases official U.S. coronavirus tally, has yet to release a breakdown based on race and ethnicity. But a representative told the Hill that it could do so as early as this week. 

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