According to the latest data from the Johns Hopkins University, around 370,000 Americans are now infected with COVID-19 while just under 11,000 have died. Several U.S. cities and states have now released statistics showing that the pandemic is proving particularly devastating for the African American population. The most recent figures from Chicago show that African Americans accounted for 69 percent of all COVID-19-related deaths in the city up to April 06 despite comprising just 30 percent of its population.
A small number of states have also released data highlighting a similar trend. In Louisiana, which is battling nearly 15,000 COVID-19 cases, over 70 percent of all deaths have been among African Americans, despite them making up just 32 percent of the state’s population. In other states, the figures aren’t quite as extreme, though the racial disparity in fatalities is highly evident. African Americans comprise 15 percent and 14 percent of the population in Illinois and Michigan and they accounted for just over 40 percent of deaths from COVID-19 in both states up to April 06.
The spread of the disease is highlighting levels of racial and economic disparity across the country where many African American communities continue to struggle to access healthcare. A high level of pre-existing conditions is also thought to be exacerbating the situation and contributing to the disproportionate fatality rate. In New Orleans, for example, where nearly 60 percent of all residents are African American, obesity, hypertension and obesity rates are all higher than the national average, making the population more vulnerable to COVID-19. The situation is similar in Chicago where African Americans have higher than average levels of diabetes, heart disease and respirarory illnesses.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot described the situation as “devastating” and said that the figures “take your breath away”. She added that an immediate response is required and outlined an aggressive public health plan to aid the communities worst hit by the pandemic. Lightfood said that “we simply can’t stand by and let this disease wreak havoc in our communities”.
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