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Coronavirus: Nearly two thirds of NYC deaths are black and hispanic people, mayor says

‘The disparities that have plagued this city and this nation are all about fundamental inequality’

Graig Graziosi
Wednesday 08 April 2020 21:37 BST
Mayor Bill De Blasio says Black and Hispanic people in New York City dying from coronavirus at disproportionate rates

Black Americans appear to be dying at disproportionately higher rates from the coronavirus than other races, according to data coming out of hospitals across the United States.

Though only a few regions have been reporting coronavirus deaths broken down by race, the data that does exist suggests that African Americans make up a large percentage of the coronavirus deaths in their communities.

Data compiled by The Washington Post shows data from nine reporting regions – six states, one county, one city and the District of Columbia – in which African Americans make up a disproportionate number of coronavirus deaths when compared to their total representation in the region’s population.

Louisiana has one of the most stark disparities, with African Americans representing 32 percent of the state’s population but 70 percent of the state’s coronavirus deaths.

In Michigan, African Americans represent 14 percent of the population but 41 percent of the deaths. Likewise in Chicago, African Americans are 32 percent of the population but account for 67 percent of the deaths due to coronavirus.

The trends hold up in New York City as well.

On Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City reported that Black and Hispanic people in the city are twice as likely to die from coronavirus as white people, according to data compiled by the city.

“There are clear inequalities, clear disparities in how this disease is affecting the people of our city,” Mr de Blasio said. “The truth is that in so many ways the negative effects of coronavirus, the pain it’s causing, the death it’s causing, tracks with other profound health care disparities that we have seen for years and decades.”

According to data provided by the city, Hispanic New Yorkers make up 34 percent of COVID-19 deaths, despite representing only 29 percent of the city’s population.

Similarly, African Americans make up 28 percent of deaths despite making up 22 percent of the city’s population.

Comparatively, White and Asian people make up 27 percent and 7 percent of deaths, respectively. White people account for 32 per cent of the city’s population and Asian people make up 14 per cent.

Mr de Blasio and New York City’s health commissioner, Dr Oxiris Barbot, said Hispanic individuals may have resisted seeking medical care over fears of exposing themselves to backlash from immigration officials.

“The overlay of the anti-immigrant rhetoric across this country, I think, has real implications in the health of our community,” Ms Barbot said.

The mayor suggested that disparity in deaths was reflective of structural, historical racial disparities found in the city.

“The disparities that have plagued this city, and this nation that are all about fundamental inequality are once again causing such pain and causing innocent people to lose their lives,” Mr de Blasio said. “It’s sick, it’s troubling. It’s wrong.”

Mr de Blasio said the city had to “double down” on efforts to help vulnerable communities by providing more resources to the city’s public hospitals and by launching awareness campaigns.

According to The New York Times, many of the neighbourhoods suffering the highest number of fatalities were those with the lowest median income. Mr de Blasio said that efforts to provide those communities with more life-saving medical equipment would be a priority moving forward.

“We must ensure that the hospital has all the personnel it needs, all the ventilators it needs, all the PPE, everything,” he said. “This is about the most essential concept of ensuring that everyone gets health care regardless of their background, regardless of their ZIP code, regardless of their income.”

The hospital Mr de Blasio was referring to was Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, which is the closest hospital for many poor residents of the surrounding neighbourhoods and whose conditions were described as “apocalyptic”.

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York also spoke to the disparity, suggesting that Black and Hispanic workers are more likely to be exposed to the virus because they are working essential jobs.

“Are more public workers Latino and African American?” Mr Cuomo said. “Who doesn’t have a choice, frankly, but to go out there everyday and drive the bus and drive the train and show up for work and wind up subjecting themselves to, in this case, the virus – whereas many other people who had the option just absented themselves.”

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