Amanda Ottaway, Courthouse News, April 8, 2020
Confirming with data what anecdotal evidence has long suggested, New York City reported Wednesday that the deadly Covid-19 virus has hit Latino and black populations hardest.
Latinos account for 34% of confirmed Covid-19 deaths, according to the figures released Wednesday, despite making up only 29% of the city’s population. The city population is 22% black, but 28% of Covid-19 deaths are black New Yorkers.
Mayor Bill de Blasio emphasized in a press conference Wednesday morning that the data, though limited, is crucial — and unsurprising.
“It tracks with other, profound health care disparities that we have seen for years and decades in this city,” de Blasio said. “We’re seeing folks who have struggled before really being hit hard.”
Kailee Scales, managing director of the Black Lives Matter Global Network, noted in an email Wednesday that these numbers should not be taken in stride.
“Ethnicity data is critical because it will allow lawmakers, elected officials, and leaders to determine the resources and funds needed in communities that are hit hardest by the pandemic,” Scales said. “Decades of systemic racism and bias has created a vulnerable population of people — people who would be disproportionately impacted by any crisis — including the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Emphasizing that the issue is also not unique to New York, Scales highlighted data that black people in Chicago, Louisiana and Michigan are dying at rates two or three times their population share.
She said all states and municipalities should be working to collect ethnic data, while addressing the issue systemically with improved access to testing and mental health benefits, adequate provisions for the poor and working poor, quality education, food and shelter, and criminal justice reform.
New York’s data shows that white and Asian New Yorkers both have death rates lower than their population — 32% of New Yorkers are white and just 27% of Covid-19 deaths are white patients, while Asians make up 14% of the city’s population and account for 7% of reported virus deaths.
“It already tells us something we need to know, and it tells us we need to act,” de Blasio said.
Right now, the mayor added, that action will take the form of a multimillion-dollar campaign to get vital information to the populations with the highest number of positive cases by zip code, using television, radio, digital and print media.