In a moment of unequivocal honesty, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ leading expert on infectious diseases, told reporters on Tuesday that COVID-19 has and will continue to disproportionately affect African Americans. His comments came at the White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing after members of the team expressed a level of concern about the current data.
“And the reason I want to bring it up, because I couldn’t help sitting there reflecting on how sometimes when you’re in the middle of a crisis, like we are now with the coronavirus, it really does have, ultimately, shine a very bright light on some of the real weaknesses and foibles in our society,” Fauci said.
The respected medical doctor, who has served at the helm of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since the 1980’s, explained that while African Americans aren’t necessarily being infected more, underlying health conditions like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and asthma are leading to a higher rate of deaths among those in the Black community.
Very real illustrations of Fauci’s statements can be seen in cities like Detroit, New Orleans, Milwaukee, and Chicago. Data in these places show that up to 73 percent of COVID-19 deaths are that of African Americans. “When all this is over, and as we’ve said, it will end. We will get over Coronavirus, but there will still be health disparities, which we really do need to address in the African American community,” says Fauci.
Dr. Maggie Cadet, a rheumatologist in New York City, believes that more demographic studies should be conducted looking at different ethnic groups and their susceptibility to the virus in order to gain insight into what social and medical factors are affecting the Black community and allowing health disparities to persist.
“The health system is fractured for this ethnic group and there are socioeconomic divides,” Cadet tells ESSENCE. “We must look at the inequalities of the healthcare system for Black Americans so we can start addressing these issues and help prevent further morbidity and mortality from disease in this population.”
Currently, members of congress, national civil rights groups, and hundreds of medical professionals are calling on the Trump Administration to release racial data for COVID-19 tests, cases and outcomes so that disparities can be analyzed.
“We are deeply concerned that African American communities are being hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that racial bias may be impacting the access they receive to testing and healthcare,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Equal access to healthcare is a critical civil rights issue, and during this novel pandemic, the public deserves nothing less than full transparency from this Administration and state public health officials.”