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White House task force sounds alarm about African Americans hit hardest by coronavirus

Underlying health problems including diabetes, hypertension causing more ICU cases, deaths

Published: April 8, 2020 9:09am

Updated: April 8, 2020 9:24am

African Americans are disproportionately suffering from the coronavirus, compared to the rest of the U.S. population, raising concerns within the White House task force on the pandemic. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a task force member and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday that infection rates are similar across U.S. populations, but more African-Americans need Intensive Care Unit help because so many have underlying health conditions.

“Yet again, when you have a situation like the coronavirus, they are suffering disproportionately,” said Fauci, who also called the situation “unacceptable.”

The country’s African-American population has a high rate of diabetes, hypertension and asthma, health conditions that Fauci said are sending people to the ICU and that “often lead to death.”

An analysis by The Washington Post, based on available data and census demographics, found U.S. counties with a majority-black population have three times the coronavirus infection rate and almost six times the rate of deaths, compared to counties in which white residents are in the majority.

The Post analysis also found that in Louisiana roughly 70 percent of the people who have died were black, though African Americans make up 32 percent of the state’s population.

In addition, black residents in Chicago have died at a rate six times that of white residents. 

Dr. Deborah Birx, another member of the White House coronavirus task force, said officials are trying to improve efforts to inform members of black communities about the risks of the virus.

“We don’t want to give the impression that the African American community is more susceptible to the virus,” Brix said Tuesday, echoing what Fauci said. “We don’t have any data that suggests that. What our data suggests is they are more susceptible to more difficult and severe disease and poorer outcomes.”


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