(Add a quote from a civil rights lawyer)
By Jan Wolfe
April 6 (Reuters) – Initial data from US states shows that African-Americans are more likely to die from COVID-19, highlighting long-standing health disparities and inequalities in access to medical care, said experts.
In Illinois, blacks account for about 30% of state cases and about 40% of coronavirus-related deaths, according to statistics provided by the state public health agency. However, African Americans make up only 14.6% of the state’s population.
In Michigan, blacks account for 40% of state-reported deaths, according to data released by the state, but its population is only 14% African American.
Many US states, including New York’s hardest hit, have not released demographic data showing the virus’s spread across different racial groups.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also not released data on the race and ethnicity of patients who contracted COVID-19, the life-threatening respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.
“Because we don’t have wide access to testing, we don’t really know how many people are infected in the United States,” said Dr. Jeffrey Levi, professor of public health at George Washington University. “We only have precise data on the people actually hospitalized. “
In a letter sent late last month, a group of Democratic lawmakers, including Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Kamala Harris, urged Health and Social Services Secretary Alex Azar to ensure that this data is collected and published.
The World Health Organization has said that people with pre-existing conditions like asthma and other chronic lung conditions, diabetes and heart disease seem to develop serious illness more often than others.
This makes the virus particularly dangerous for African Americans who, due to environmental and economic factors, have higher rates of these diseases, said Dr. Summer Johnson McGee, dean of the School of Health Sciences at the University of New Haven.
McGee said she was not surprised that the black American population experienced a worse outcome during the pandemic. Racism has led to a lack of investment in African American communities and a deterioration in health care for the general population, said McGee.
“A pandemic simply amplifies the disparities in health care that many communities of color face,” she said.
Kristen Clarke, executive director of the National Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said race data is essential information for leaders so that federal, state and municipal resources can be distributed equitably. “We know that this data is saved and is not made public,” she said, highlighting the CDC form that healthcare providers fill out when they report a case of coronavirus positive. “They need to publish this data to help shape a fair response to the pandemic. “
Confirmed cases of the US coronavirus approached 350,000, with more than 10,000 deaths on Monday, according to a Reuters count. The United States has by far the best-known cases of COVID-19 with almost twice as many as Spain and Italy, but fewer deaths than in the two European countries hardest hit.
(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; additional reporting by Brad Brooks; Editing by Heather Timmons, Bill Berkrot and Cynthia Osterman)
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