The Disproportional Impact of The Coronavirus Pandemic on Minority Communities

Rebekah Alemayehu, Editor-In-Chief

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on our community’s health, well-being, and economic stability. No one has stood untouched by these circumstances, but some communities are being impacted more severely than others, especially racial and ethnic minority groups. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a disturbing statistic in June of 2020: Black and Latino people combined make up only 31% of the US population, but roughly 55% of reported COVID-19 cases in the United States were Blacks and Latinos. In addition to this, the mortality rate for COVID-19 among African Americans is more than double that  of whites. Some have adopted the misinformed idea that “minorities are more genetically susceptible to the COVID-19.” This statement cannot be further than the truth; there are many factors that have likely contributed to this disparity in the pandemic’s impact across racial and ethnic groups.

 

The first and most prominent factor is pre-existing conditions among minorities. Data has shown that conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, renal disease, and obesity increase the risk of contracting COVID-19, and possibly dying from it. These diseases are more commonly found in African Americans in comparison to Whites. Also, Black Americans, overall, are more likely to die prematurely in comparison to White Americans. One must also consider the quality of medical care that Black and Brown people receive in comparison to Whites when exploring this topic: minorities tend to live in underserved areas in which there is poor quality medical care. As a result, medical uninsurement rates are higher among minorities: 22% of Native Americans, 19% of Hispanics, and 12% of African Americans do not have medical insurance, in comparison to 8% of uninsured White Americans. 

 

There are other factors to consider with respect to this disparity. The poverty rates among Native Americans (24%), African Americans (22%), and Hispanics (19%) are much higher compared to the poverty rate for White Americans (9%). The wealth among White Americans is ten times that of African American households. Financial disadvantages such as these lead to African Americans and other minority groups making uninformed health choices. Eating “healthy” is an expensive feat, and fast food and other processed foods are the cheapest options for those who cannot afford to think about their health. This has also carried over to the pandemic: the lack of proper nutrition has the potential to impact one’s immune system and, therefore, leaves a person more vulnerable to sickness or death at the hands of the virus. 

 

Lastly, Black people are more likely to involuntarily be in situations that may expose them to the virus than Whites. New York City’s comptroller reported that 75% of frontline workers in the city are people of color. Only 20% of Black people can work from home in comparison to 30% of White people. Pre-existing disparities such as these exacerbate the disproportionate impacts displayed across racial and ethnic groups. This pandemic has highlighted the issues in healthcare that hurt minority communities and should encourage people to fight for and support more equitable healthcare systems. 

 

As students, simply making ourselves aware of this issue, whether from first hand experience or secondhand exposure, may feel like we have taken enough steps to stay “woke”, and have played our part in society. However, there are steps we can take to contribute to our community and actively address the issue instead of being passively aware of the problem. In the short term, facilitating community outreach to (1) spread awareness about these disparities using social media platforms and (2) conduct community service activities aimed at alleviating our communities of the pandemic are effective ways to combat this issue. In the long term, working towards careers in healthcare, politics, law, and healthcare management are all important paths that will put you in the position to pass legislation on healthcare equity, provide quality healthcare in underserved communities, and more. Kennedy offers many clubs, academic programs, and classes (e.g. Healthcare Professions Academy & Healthcare Professions Club, Speech and Debate Club, Mock Trial Club, Kennedy’s one-semester law course, AP Government and Politics, etc.) designed to prepare students for these careers, and joining these organizations may be the first step to making a change for the better.