No, the Coronavirus Does Not Discriminate Between Races or Skin Color; But the American System Does

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Photo Credit: AP Photo / Bebeto Matthews

Latinos and African Americans in the United States share many demographic traits: Both groups represent high-density communities, both have enriched our culture like no other, and both face the same disadvantages.

Being a person of color in this country means being at higher risk of poverty, of aggressions by law enforcement, and it means having to overcome more obstacles than a white person to get a taste of the so-called “American Dream.”

Today, with the coronavirus pandemic, Latinos and African Americans once again share a troubling feature. In essence, both communities have reported the highest number of cases of infection and death in a big part of the country.

While states like Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Louisiana account for more than 50 percent of African American deaths from COVID-19, cities like New York have seen Latinos die at equally high rates.

Citing data from New York City’s health department, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Latinos — who make up about 29 percent of New York’s population — represent nearly 34 percent of the patients who had died of COVID-19 as of Monday. And almost 28 percent of the city’s 2,472 known deaths were among black people, who represent about 24 percent of the population, NPR reported.

“Meanwhile, the numbers reflected a disproportionately lower impact among white people — about 32% of the city’s population and 27% of its COVID-19 deaths — and Asian people, who represent nearly 14% of the population and about 7% of its deaths,” the media added.

In Virginia, Governor Ralph Northam announced last Wednesday the urgency of improving how the state tracks racial demographic data in COVID-19 cases.

“In a pandemic such as this, it is critical that everyone has as much information as possible from the decision makers to the public,” Northam said.

Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Normal Oliver added that “the state does not have race and ethnicity data for 53% of its COVID-19 cases,” as reported by WTVR.

“That’s mainly because of labs receiving data from providers who have taken test specimens from patients and sent it in without the racial and ethnic background information recorded,” Oliver explained.

However, with the few figures at hand, the state has reported that 28 percent of their cases are African-American patients.

According to The Boston Globe, in Massachusetts, the “two largest community health centers, in East Boston and Lawrence, have encountered a disproportionately large surge of Coronavirus cases among Spanish-speakers.”

This phenomenon is due, in part, to the lack of access to health care in both demographic groups, and a history of chronic diseases rooted in the community due to the low quality of life.

“There are clear inequalities, clear disparities in how this disease is affecting the people of our city,” de Blasio said. “The truth is that in so many ways the negative effects of coronavirus — the pain it’s causing, the death it’s causing — tracks with other profound health care disparities that we have seen for years and decades.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo agreed on the profound inequality experienced by people of color in the country.

“Are more public workers Latino and African-American?” the governor asked. “Who don’t have a choice, frankly, but to go out there every day and drive the bus and drive the train and show up for work and wind up subjecting themselves to, in this case, the virus. Whereas many other people who had the option just absented themselves.”