New figures compiled by non-partisan research laboratory APM and released Wednesday under the title Color of Coronavirus provide further evidence of the staggering divide in the Covid-19 mortality rate between black Americans and the rest of the nation.
Across the country, African-Americans died at a rate of 50.3 per 100,000 people, compared to 20.7 for whites, 22.9 for Latinos and 22.7 for Asian Americans.
More than 20,000 African-Americans – about one in 2,000 of the total black population in the United States – have died from the disease.
At the state level, the statistics are all the more shocking. The bottom of the rankings in terms of racial disparities is Kansas, where black residents die at seven times the rate of whites.
“This is a call to action for our county commissioners, our state and our municipal officials,” Kansas state representative Gail Finney recently told local TV station KWCH12.
In other states, the gulf is almost as extreme. In the national capital, Washington, the disparity in mortality between blacks and whites is six times, in Michigan and Missouri five, and in the main hotspots of the disease – New York, Illinois and Louisiana – three.
Despite the glaring gulf, the Trump administration continues to be slow to respond to the crisis. Uché Blackstock, an emergency room doctor and CEO of Advancing Health Equity, said the federal response was anemic.
“The disparities continue to be reflected in the data, but we still lack guidance from the federal government on how to reduce these divisions. There is no real plan to deal with it, “said Blackstock.
Senior Trump administration officials have blamed the high incidence disparities among blacks for underlying health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity. Health Secretary Alex Azar on Sunday highlighted their “More risk profiles”and has been criticized for blaming the victims of the virus.
Although comorbidities are a factor, there is growing evidence that black Americans are disadvantaged in terms of access to diagnostic tests and treatment for the disease.
Data collection on the racial divide in death has itself been hampered by the lack of federal action, compounded by slow and sometimes non-existent reports from many states. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) did not produce their first set of death statistics by race this week, despite increasing calls for basic information.
In the absence of government data, APM Research Lab intervened in the breach. It now collects statistics from 40 states, covering nearly 90% of the total of 92,128 deaths in the United States recorded by Johns Hopkins.
Andi Egbert, principal investigator at APM Research Lab, said she was surprised to see that it was up to an independent organization to produce national statistics that should come from the federal government. “I will not speculate on the reason, but I cannot believe in a modern economy that we do not have a consistent and mandatory way of reporting data across states. We are in the midst of this terrible crisis, and data is the best way to know who is suffering and how. “
Among the states that still fail to report racial death data are Montana, Nebraska, Utah and North and South Dakota.
Racial disparities in death figures in the United States appeared relatively early in the pandemic, especially in the big cities where black neighborhoods were hit much harder than wealthier white areas. When New York City produced its first racial breakdown of the deaths of Covid-19 in April, it showed that Latin Americans and Black New Yorkers, especially in the outer boroughs, including Queens and the Bronx , experienced mortality rates at least twice that of whites and Asians. .
New figures from the city’s health department released this week and reviewed by the New York Times revealed that when mortality rates are listed by postal code, eight of the top 10 have a predominantly black or Latin American population.
As the pandemic unfolds, some states, including Michigan and New York, have started to convene specialized task forces to address the disproportionate suffering of black communities. But Blackstock said there was still no sign of the Trump administration to tackle the crisis.
“At this point, we have to assume that the clear lack of direction from the federal government will continue and that states will have to do it for themselves,” she said.