Black and minority neighborhoods are hit harder than white areas


A virus slams black Americans and reveals inequalities

Data on coronavirus deaths in the United States show a disturbing trend: the virus is killing black Americans at a higher rate. Activists striving to level out racial disparities in health care, access to food and security are calling for systemic change. (April 10)


CHICAGO – Railroad tracks run over the intersection of Kinzie Street and Ashland Avenue, two main streets that meet on the west side of Chicago. At one corner of the intersection is a trampoline park and a new brewery. In the opposite corner, empty buildings for rent.

In a sense, a relatively free postal code for the coronavirus epidemic. In the other, a community devastated by the disease. A predominantly white, with six-figure earnings the norm. A majority minority and earning much thinner paychecks.

Darnell Shields, executive director of the Chicago community group Austin Coming Together, said that the disparate impacts of COVID-19 result from food and housing instability, faltering neighborhood economies and limited access to education. and quality health care.

“This creates fertile ground for something like a virus to enter,” said Shields.

As the United States surpassed the one million known COVID-19 mark this week, postal code data shows the virus has spread to certain areas while leaving residents in adjacent areas much less affected.

Impact of the coronavirus: Black people die at much higher rates in cities in the United States

USA TODAY took an exclusive look at how the pandemic was felt in neighborhoods of the country by collecting data at the postal code level from the health services of 12 states: Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan , Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas.

COVID-19 case report summaries were collected for more than 3,200 zip codes – about 10% of the nearly 33,000 U.S. zip codes. Case data was matched with US census demographic data to show how infection rates differed in ZIPs by race, income and housing characteristics.

The results paint a grim picture of the devastation of COVID in places a few kilometers or blocks from communities of much less damage.

In the poorest neighborhoods, where the median household income is less than $ 35,000, the rate of COVID-19 infection was twice as high as in the richest ZIPs of the country, with an income above 75 $ 000.

Infection rates were five times higher in majority-minority postal codes than in postal codes with less than 10% of the non-white population.

Among the first 10 ZIPs with 10 or more cases – one in Florida, one in Michigan, the other eight in New York – nine are areas where at least two-thirds of the residents are not white. Five are regions where household income is below the national median of $ 60,293.

Local health officials say not all differences in neighborhood infection rates are due to race and income. Some are the result of limited access to test sites or a lack of interest among some residents for the test. Areas with more nursing homes may also have higher infection rates.

But USA TODAY analysis shows that socio-economic factors have played an important role.

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From neighborhood to neighborhood, income disparities, diversity and COVID-19 infections

The intersection of Kinzie and Ashland in Chicago marks the border between postal code 60642, which focuses on the Noble Square neighborhood, and postal code 60612, which covers much of the East Garfield Park neighborhood.

In Noble Square, the virus infection rate last week was around 20 per 10,000 people. In the neighboring neighborhood of East Garfield, the confirmed case rate was more than four times higher – about 86 per 10,000 population. The test rate was also higher at East Garfield Park, but this difference is not to explain its much higher workload.

Affected less severely by the coronavirus, Noble Square is a crossroads of young professionals overflowing with restaurants and nightlife spots. About 60% of the population is white and the median household income is approximately $ 101,900.

Lawyer Jane Kwak, 32, went out for a walk with her boyfriend and his golden doodle on Thursday despite the cold and overcast weather. The joggers drove without a mask. Some walked dogs. Many restaurants were open for take-out.

“I don’t know anyone who has it,” said Kwak of the coronavirus. “I feel like this is still a bit normal. People act normally. Our neighbors are still chatting and are not super afraid. “

Noble Square resident Jane Kwak, 32, walks her golden doodle, Mozzarella, in Chicago, Illinois, April 30, 2020.

Noble Square resident Jane Kwak, 32, walks her golden doodle, Mozzarella, in Chicago, Illinois, April 30, 2020.
Grace Hauck

East Garfield, a hard hit neighborhood, is a family neighborhood located between a veranda and an industrial corridor.. Over 78% of the population is not white and the median household income is $ 41,300.

Noble Square attorney Kwak has been granted a 15% pay cut and works from home. She considers herself lucky. But at East Garfield, janitor Jimmy Walker lost his job. Just like his wife Rachel, an educator.

Walkers are late on rent. They don’t have a mask or gloves, although the Illinois home stay order that takes effect Friday requires masks for those going out in public.

“Man, we need a lot of help here,” said Rachel Walker. “It was tough. “

“There were people outside all day,” said Jimmy Walker. “Now it’s like a ghost town. “

East Garfield Park residents Jimmy and Rachel Walker return home from the Chicago, Illinois market on April 30, 2020.

East Garfield Park residents Jimmy and Rachel Walker return home from the Chicago, Illinois market on April 30, 2020.
Grace Hauck

Pastor Walter McCray, who lives in his childhood home in East Garfield, said that his neighbor on the street had contracted the virus and that several of his associate pastors had lost family members and longtime members of their churches.

Bill Curry, who runs programs for youth and families in the neighborhood, said the community was suffering. “The demand for food has increased significantly,” said Curry. “Not only the people who have been regulars, but a lot of people, this is their first time in a pantry. “

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In the city of Chicago, a similar pattern emerges: coronavirus case rates are higher in majority and minority low-income areas. Many of these neighborhoods are food desserts where residents do not have broadband access. Last week, the mayor launched a racial equity rapid response team to deal with the disproportionate impact of the epidemic.

“This virus really exposes a lot of the disparities that were historically part of these communities, even before COVID,” said Shields, whose group is part of the task force.

Consider postal code 60621, which includes the South Side Englewood neighborhood, where the case rate is 70 per 10,000. Nearly 99% of the population is not white and the median household income is $ 20,000.

Resident Tammy Smith, 51, a home health aide, said a friend whom she had known since she was a teenager died recently after contracting the coronavirus. “She’s gone,” said Smith, taking the bus to work. “It touched me, not just me, but my family and others. “

According to the protocol, Smith boarded the buses through the rear doors, opening them by pulling on the rubber liner. A handful of other people – mostly African-American and wearing protective masks – were seated on the bus.

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The adjacent postal code 60620, which includes Auburn Gresham, has the same rate of infections.

“Our community is under siege. We are losing lives, “said Carlos Nelson, CEO of the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation, who called USA TODAY from his cell phone because the phone and internet were down in the neighborhood.

The trend is not unique to Chicago.

Detroit, the epicenter of the Michigan epidemic, reported 1,000 deaths and nearly 9,000 cases on Wednesday. This push led to the transformation of convention centers into field hospitals.

Ira Carroll stood on a milk crate to reach the top shelf of the freezer to restock the ice cream section at Saturn Super Foods on Joy Road in the Detroit zip code 48228, where the rate of coronavirus cases is among the highest from the city at 92 per 10,000 inhabitants.

Saturn Super Foods is located on an avenue lined with independent business malls, including a hair salon, restaurant, and auto repair shop. Beyond the avenue is a quiet residential area that makes up a large part of 48228.

“It’s a quiet and peaceful neighborhood,” said Carroll, describing the place where he had been called for over a decade.

Ira Carroll restocked the ice cream in the frozen section of Saturn Super Foods, in Detroit postal code 48228, where he has worked for 22 years.

Ira Carroll restocked the ice cream in the frozen section of Saturn Super Foods, in Detroit postal code 48228, where he has worked for 22 years.
Miriam Marini

48228 Detroit is where people come to stay. Families settle in the neighborhood and often stay in the area for generations. This is the type of place where your childhood friend stays in childhood. The median household income is $ 26,000 and 84% of the population is not white.

Damien Lake, 23, has lived in Region 48228 for most of his life. He suspects that this relentless sense of community may be a contributing factor to the region’s COVID-19 levels. “Lots of people in this area have known each other and lived for years,” said Lake. “So they want to be together, they want to socialize. “

Right next to this community is Redford Township, postal code 48239, with about double the median income and only one-eighth of the COVID-19 infection rate.

Denise Martin, who lived at 48239 for 12 years, said that Redford also had a strong sense of community. On sunny afternoons, as in many Detroit suburbs, it’s typical to see young moms strolling with strollers or families taking their dogs out for some fresh air.

Martin lives in a quiet neighborhood where she knows each of his neighbors, which she says is expected of her as a neighborhood captain for the Far West Detroit Civic Association.

Although his community has not been hit as hard, the impact is still felt here. Martin suspected that she had a coronavirus in February. With her severe asthma, doctors put her on a CPAP machine to help her breathe, and she was able to recover in time for a birthday party by car for her granddaughter on April 1.

“No one has come to my house since the order,” said Martin behind a mask and homemade facial mask. “I have a one-year-old granddaughter that I can’t wait to see. It has been the best year of my life so far with her. I want to live to see my grand baby. “

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Different approaches to counting cases

Some postal codes have challenged demographic trends, potentially reflecting arbitrary decisions about how coronavirus cases are recorded.

In Jacksonville, Florida, the San Marco district, which is the heart of 32207, is one of the most within walking distance of the city. The storefronts that line the wide sidewalks are usually crowded. But since the coronavirus epidemic has shut down much of the city, the neighborhood has followed suit.

While the Florida Department of Health updated its COVID-19 case data, 32207 remained. It represented less than 4% of the county’s population but 18% of the cases.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry spokeswoman Nikki Kimbleton said the aberration was due to the number of hospitals in the area. While state officials say they try to assign cases to where someone lives, if they don’t know the patient’s address, they note the address of a provider. healthcare or test laboratory.

San Marco is home to the Jacksonville Baptist Medical Center, the city’s main screening partner, so patients are likely to be affected there. Baptist did not return a request for comment.

Other COVID-19 risk factors: How Race, Income and Postal Code Can Affect Life and Death

Next door, in 32216, home to St. Vincent’s Southside Hospital and Memorial Hospital, the rate of confirmed coronavirus cases is a quarter of that in San Marco.

The two neighborhoods have roughly the same population, racial makeup, median household income and the housing stock. However, there are differences between the two communities.

The restaurants in San Marco, with the highest case rate, are home to local shops and appear to have adapted to take-out. The 32216 restaurants, which house industrial parks and a large portion of the city’s stores in Arabic, Latin America and Southeast Asia, say they have seen a larger drop in foot traffic.

City councilor Matt Carlucci, a lifelong San Marco native, used social media like Nextdoor to reassure residents that the large numbers they see in postcode maps of COVID-19 infections do not reflect reality.

If there was really an epidemic in the neighborhood, he said, he knew it. “I know San Marco as well as anyone in San Marco,” said Carlucci. “I have lived here for 64 years of my life. “

Collaborators: Miriam Marini, Detroit Free Press; Andrew Pantazi,

Grace Hauck is based in Chicago. Follow her on @grace_hauck.


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