People of color again find themselves enduring the brunt of danger while receiving the least amount of protection. The COVID-19 pandemic is no different as the ongoing battle against the virus is taking its toll on an ill-prepared, ill-informed American public.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) compiled information concerning the ethnicities and socio-economic statuses of affected individuals and communities, and found that Black, Latino and Hispanic peoples have more than double the number of COVID-19 cases as their white counterparts. Additionally, the rate of deaths due to COVID-19 among Black Americans is double the rate of deaths in white Americans.
The reason for this massive disparity in infection and death rates, however alarming, is no mystery. In an official statement, the CDC stated that “inequalities in the social determinants of health, such poverty and healthcare access, affecting [minority groups] are interrelated and influence a wide range of health and quality of life outcomes and risks.”
The CDC outlined five distinct factors that are influencing the “inequalities,” and again, although pressingly urgent, these factors are elements that come up again and again in the conversation of equality in the U.S.
The primary factors that the CDC states are associated with the higher infection and higher death rates in minority communities include: discrimination, healthcare access and utilization, occupation, educational income and wealth gaps, and housing.
According to the CDC, these external circumstances directly lead to more cases of COVID-19, as well as stifled response times, crippled prevention plans, and amplified the effects of underlying adjacent illnesses such as asthma or diabetes.
These problems will continue to breed more problems of their own serving a vicious cycle of systemic oppression and hardship.
Severe circumstances require drastic action. But more so, they require clear thought, heavy considerations, and careful planning; all things that The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has devoted much time towards.
In an effort to inform the public and the leaders who are charged with their well being, the NAACP released Ten Equity Implication of the Coronavirus COVID-19 Outbreak in the United States. The report outlines several resources and recommendations concerning the policies and practices that affect COVID-19, its responses, and its far reaching tentacles.
Among other things, the report addresses the CDC concerns, and goes beyond to include concerns of conduct and attitudes toward certain minority groups.
As stated in the report, “We must recognize and stand up against racial/ethnic discrimination and stereotyping. Our federal, state and local governments must ensure necessary policies and practices are in place, so that needed information, training, resources, and care are available equitably and reach all people in all communities.”
Oftentimes it takes an extreme stressor to reveal the fractures and failures within a country’s physical and cultural infrastructure, and COVID-19 in the U.S. has proven to be no exception.
One look at the numbers and even a cursory glance at the CDC and NAACP reports may seem insurmountably hopeless, but to declare the U.S. a lost cause would be doing a disservice to those who have suffered and those who are at unnecessarily high risk. Perhaps that read through of the recommendations and that glance at tracking data will convince many more to wear masks and be safe.