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Covid-19 still disproportionately affects black and brown communities, doctors warn

A new report details the disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on black Americans and calls for “the most accurate data” on race and ethnicity to address this health inequity.

The statement gave “legitimacy” to conversations that have been taking place across all sectors of health care for some time, said coalition co-founder Dr. Reed Tuckson.

The statement also shows that the CDC understands that structural racism is a “fundamental root cause of much of America’s health disparities,” Tuckson said. “It’s not a political issue. It’s a matter of human health and survival.”

The new report doesn’t just serve as a reminder that the Covid-19 pandemic isn’t over – especially for the black community – it’s a ‘call to action’ to address issues that existed long before the pandemic. , Tuckson added.

“Now that we go back and look at everything that happened to us and everything that we learned, now is the time to focus everyone’s attention on coming back and fighting the old fight,” said he declared.

The stark racial disparities in Covid-19 outcomes seen over the past two years were not the result of the disease itself, but rather the pandemic “brought to light inequalities that have existed for generations and exposed for all of America a known but often untreated epidemic. public health impact: racism,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in an April 8, 2021 statement.

“Racism is not just the discrimination against a group because of the color of their skin, race or ethnic origin, but the structural barriers that affect racial and ethnic groups differently to influence where a person lives, where they work, where their children play, and where they worship and gather in community,” Walensky said. “These social determinants of health have lifelong negative effects on mental health and physics of individuals in communities of color.”

Since the start of the pandemic, the risk of dying from Covid-19 has been nearly twice as high for blacks and Hispanics in the United States as for whites, according to CDC data. Blacks and Hispanics also faced a higher risk of coronavirus infection and were more than twice as likely to be hospitalized.

Even though Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are trending down in the United States, black Americans have recently experienced the “highest hospitalization rate” of any racial and ethnic group since the start of the pandemic, according to the new report.

During the week ending Jan. 8, the hospitalization rate for black Americans was 64 per 100,000 people, the report noted. That’s double the overall weekly rate of hospitalizations for all races during the same time period and nearly triple the rate of hospitalizations for whites at any time during the pandemic, according to a CNN analysis of CDC data.

“This was the highest weekly rate of any race and ethnicity at any time during the pandemic,” according to the report.

While Covid-19 hospitalizations have since fallen among all racial and ethnic groups and are now at their lowest point on record, CDC data from mid-March shows that weekly hospitalization rates were still the higher among blacks and Native Americans in the United States.

The report also refers to significant disparities in how the pandemic has affected children. One in 310 black children lost a parent or guardian between April 2020 and June 2021, compared to 1 in 738 white children.

The report mentions that “racial and ethnic disparities” are expected to persist as people continue to show symptoms of Covid-19 in the long term.

The report’s authors are physicians and public health experts, including Tuckson and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, who chaired President Biden’s Covid-19 Health Equity Task Force. They wrote that “the severity of COVID-19 among black Americans was the predictable result of structural and societal realities, not differences in genetic predisposition.”

Covid-19 still disproportionately affects black and brown communities, doctors warn

Now, black health officials are calling for more accurate data on these racial disparities and how they affect public health.

“If we are to effectively address health equity among Black Americans, having access to the most accurate data is essential,” the report authors wrote.

As of this week, the CDC website that tracks Covid-19 data says the agency is “working with states to provide more race/ethnicity information for reported cases.” Currently, race and ethnicity data is only available from the CDC for 65% of total cases and 84% of deaths.

“This report draws attention to the continuing disproportionate burden faced by members of the Black community and will help guide advocacy and policy efforts to address these inequalities, both during the current pandemic and beyond,” wrote Nunez-Smith in the foreword to the report. She notes that she was commissioned by the Black Coalition Against Covid to produce the report.

“Given generations of systemic disinvestment in the health of Black communities in the United States, the grossly disproportionate rates of illness and death related to COVID-19 are not surprising,” Nunez-Smith wrote. “This report situates the alarming disparities linked to the pandemic within these deeper societal inequalities and provides guidance for moving towards lasting change.”

While the trajectory of the pandemic remains uncertain, Tuckson has made clear the need to continue to shine a light on the health of Black America amid Covid-19 and beyond.

“If we don’t do it, someone else will have to do it,” he said. “We have a lot of work ahead of us and a lot of issues that have escalated so much.”

CNN’s Deidre McPhillips contributed to this report.

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