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Coronavirus: African Americans being infected, dying at higher rates


TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – COVID-19 is infecting and killing African-Americans at a disproportionately high rate, according to health department data from across the country.

In Louisiana, blacks make up 70% of the people who have died from the disease. The disparity is huge considering African-Americans only make up 32% of the state’s population. 

The University of South Florida’s Dean and Professor of the College of Pharmacy, Dr. Kevin Sneed, says lack of access to healthcare for African-Americans and at-risk health conditions contributes to the disparity. 

“Chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes have a much higher prevalence in the African American community,” Sneed said. “It kind fo sets an environment inside that body that allows the inflammation from the COVID-19 virus to really foster and proliferate a lot more. If you have a chronic condition you are far more susceptible to not only having the disease but actually succumbing to it.” 

In Florida, 18% of the people dying from COVID-19 are African-American. According to the U.S. Census, blacks make up 16% of the states population.

Dr. Sneed says the disparity isn’t as glaringly different compared to other states. He believes the efforts from local and state leaders have contributed to that. 

“We’ve had a relatively low rate of infection overall here in Hillsborough County,” Sneed said. “We don’t have a lot of statistics right now of the racial and ethnic backgrounds of what may be happening. Fortunately, I do think the measures the Governor and the Mayor have taken in terms of safe-at-home and social distancing have had a great impact.”

Dr. Sneed says lack of access to healthcare and chronic diseases that contributes to the numbers, but socio-economic factor play a big part. 

“African Americans are much more likely in densely populated areas to need public transportation to get to and from work if they have been deemed an essential worker,” Sneed said. “If they live in a densely populated area now we are talking about greater contact with other people that may themselves be infected.”

He’s hoping a spotlight on these disparities during the pandemic will lead to some change. 

“For several decades we have been trying address health disparities and health equities in this country” he said. “Health disparity and health equity needs to be at the forefront of healthcare overall. How we train physicians, how we train nurses and pharmacists and how we address public health issues from the Department of Health standpoint and otherwise and we have not done an effective job of it for decades now. I think this situations puts a spotlight and an opportunity to move forward. Shame on the entire healthcare system across the entire country if we don’t take advantage of this situation to address health disparities so that all Americans whether it be African Americans, Latin x, Asian, Caucasian or anybody else can fully enjoy what this country can offer.”

CLICK HERE to read Dr. Sneed’s blog article regarding the disparities.

For more information on coronavirus in Florida, CLICK HERE.


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