Posted on April 8, 2020

Black, Latino Communities Suffering Disproportionately from Coronavirus, Statistics Show

J. Edward Moreno, The Hill, April 7, 2020

Emerging statistics show black and Latino communities are being disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic, leading to pressure from lawmakers and others that states release the racial breakdown of their cases and deaths.

Louisiana’s Department of Health on Monday became one of the latest state entities to begin reporting a racial breakdown of their cases. It showed black people account for 70 percent of coronavirus deaths in the state, despite making up just 32 percent of the population.

“That deserves more attention, and we’re going to have to dig into that and see what we can do to slow that trend down,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) said Monday, calling the figures in his state “disturbing.”

As of Tuesday morning, at least nine states and Washington, D.C., have included a racial breakdown of their coronavirus cases. {snip}

Though Wisconsin as a state has not released that data, Milwaukee County began reporting the racial breakdown of cases Monday after ProPublica reported that African Americans accounted for nearly half of the cases and more than 80 percent of the reported deaths there.

This emerging disparity has led lawmakers and health professionals to call for a complete racial breakdown of coronavirus cases and deaths in the country.


“The data already released shows troubling trends for African Americans that must be addressed to ensure public health,” said Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust.


Uche Blackstock, CEO of Advancing Health Equity, noted that a significant portion of the patients she sees as a practicing emergency physician in Brooklyn fall under that umbrella.

“I have seen in my waiting room mostly black and brown patients who are essential workers and service workers who can’t afford to stay home. These are the ones that I see presenting to the clinic with COVID-19 symptoms,” Blackstock told reporters in a conference call Monday.

Taison Bell, a professor of medicine at the University of Virginia Medical School, said that in places where coronavirus testing is scarce for minority communities there’s been a spike in related ailments.


Blackstock and Bell are two of 400 medical professionals who signed a letter from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law pressing the Department of Health and Human Services to release data on minority access to coronavirus tests.

The letter argues that racial data will help ensure health care providers are in compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibit discrimination in federally funded health care institutions.


In Michigan and Illinois — two of the earliest states to produce such data — African Americans account for about a third of coronavirus cases and about 40 percent of deaths, even though that demographic only makes up 15 and 14 percent, respectively, of the states’ total populations.

On Tuesday, Mississippi health officials said “we’re seeing similar [data] here in Mississippi that it is impacting the African American community at a little higher rate.”

In Chicago, black Americans account for 68 percent of the city’s 118 deaths and 52 percent of the roughly 5,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, despite making up just 30 percent of the city’s population, according to data from the Chicago Department of Public Health.