“Covid-19 has shone a bright light on our own society’s failings,” Dr Fauci said on Sunday during a video message to students graduating from Emory University in Atlanta.
Dr Fauci, who leads the US response to Covid-19, said that even as things return to "some form of normality" people should not forget how the virus disproportionally hospitalised and killed people of colour.
The disparity could be explained by a number of factors, Dr Fauci said – all of which have their roots in the deeply entrenched racial inequality of society.
People from minority groups were statistically more likely to work in essential, front-line jobs and hence had the greater risk of getting exposed to the virus, he said. They are also more likely to suffer severe sickness from the virus because of medical conditions such as hypertension, chronic lung disease, diabetes or obesity.
“Now, very few of these comorbidities have racial determinants,” Dr Fauci said.
“Almost all relate to the social determinants of health dating back to disadvantageous conditions that some people of colour find themselves in from birth, regarding the availability of an adequate diet, access to healthcare and the undeniable effects of racism in our society.”
He urged the fresh graduates in the audience to be a part of the positive change required, saying it would take decades to correct these societal wrongs.
He also issued a call for unity, saying “societal divisiveness is counterproductive” amid a raging pandemic, and that people should not be at odds with each other since the virus is the enemy.
And he acknowledged the impact the pandemic has had on those still in education, saying: “Each of you deserves enormous respect for your extraordinary adaptability, resilience and dedication to learning, completing your studies and graduating despite immense difficulties and uncertainties.”
His statement came as several reports highlighted racism and discrimination against people of colour during the pandemic, forcing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to call racism a "serious" threat to public health.
The CDC acknowledged that Covid most severely affected minority groups, which also "experienced disproportionate case counts and deaths".
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