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COVID-19 Cases Mount Among Blacks in N.C.

By Cash Michaels, Peacemaker Senior Contributor / April 8, 2020

In Louisiana Monday, Gov. John Bell Edwards had stark news for his state – more than 70 percent of its confirmed 15,000 COVID-19 cases are African Americans.

“Slightly more than 70 percent of all deaths in Louisiana (from the virus) are of African Americans, who make up about 32 percent of the overall population of our state,” he said Monday. “This is a big disparity, and we want to find out what that is attributable to … and what we can do to slow that trend down.”

In Chicago, more than half of those who’ve contracted coronavirus, and more than 70 percent of those who have died, are African American.

N.C. COVID-19 Statistics

(As of Wednesday morning, April 8th)
3221 – Total cases
46 – Deaths
785 – African Americans
(38 percent of cases)
13 – Deaths of African Americans
(31 percent of deaths)

Guilford County Cases

(Data not broken down by race)
119 -Total cases
5 – Deaths

As of 10 a.m., Wednesday April 8, North Carolina officially had approximately 3,221 cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19), in more than 90 of 100 counties, with approximately 46 deaths (unofficial numbers form late reporting county health departments had the numbers higher).

Of that number, more than 785, or 38 percent, were Black. An estimated 31 percent (13) of Blacks known to have been infected with COVID-19 have died.

African Americans make up an estimated 21 percent of North Carolina’s population. Mecklenburg, Wake, Durham and Guilford counties – counties with high Black populations – also have the most coronavirus cases across the state. Data on county coronavirus cases by race at this time has not been available.

With published reports projecting that North Carolina could have as many as 750,000 people infected by the end of May if current social distancing policies are NOT maintained (Gov. Cooper’s “stay at home” restrictions are scheduled to end on April 29), the number of Blacks who could catch the virus if the percentages held at where they are now would be 277,000 African American cases, and 165,000 dead.

As shocking as those numbers are, they are even more eye-opening in other, larger states.

As of Friday, April 3, while African Americans make up just 15 percent of Michigan’s population, they are 35 percent of the state’s COVID-19 known cases. In Illinois – Blacks are 16 percent of the state’s population, but 36 percent of the coronavirus cases.

And in neighboring South Carolina, African Americans tally in at 28 percent of the population, but 36 percent of those infected with COVID-19.

Even without COVID-19, the death rate for African Americans “… is generally higher than Whites for heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma, influenza and pneumonia, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and homicide,” states the 2017 U.S. Health and Human Services report, based on 2015 findings.

But now with the novel coronavirus added to the list, spreading at a frightening rate (North Carolina is doubling its overall cases in days now instead of weeks) the impact on the Black community here in the Tar Heel state, and across the nation, is expected to be devastating.

Indeed, because several chronic diseases like diabetes are so prevalent in the African American community, many Black medical professionals are bracing themselves for the worst, and warning the community to pay serious heed to the social distancing directives issued by Gov. Cooper weeks ago.

North Carolina is fortunate. It is one of the few states breaking down its daily cases by race, thus making it easier to track the virus. Neither the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, or the World’s Health Organization do as of press time.

In a March 27 letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, requested that his agency start keeping track of COVID-19 in communities of color, and publish the results.

“Without demographic data on the race and ethnicity of patients being tested, the rate of positive test results, and outcomes for those with COVID-19, it will be impossible for practitioners and policy makers to address disparities in health outcomes and inequities in access to testing and treatment as they emerge,” Warren and Pressley wrote. “This lack of information will exacerbate existing health disparities and result in the loss of lives in vulnerable communities. It will also hamper the efforts of public health officials to track and contain the novel coronavirus in the areas that are at the highest risk of continued spread.”

Until a vaccine is developed, can the African American community survive here and elsewhere, as the coronavirus spreads?


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Since 1967, the Carolina Peacemaker has served as North Carolina’s leading news weekly with a national reputation. Founded by Dr. John Kilimanjaro, the newspaper is published by Carolina Newspaper, Inc.

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