The Disproportionate Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Black Americans

By Madison Woschkolup

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the United States is immense, but this impact has been disproportionately felt by Black communities. In thirty-three states and the District of Columbia, Black people comprise a higher proportion of COVID-19 cases relative to the percentage of the state’s population they make up. In addition to experiencing an increased risk of contracting the virus, Black Americans are also experiencing the highest actual COVID-19 mortality rates nationwide, more than double the mortality rate of their white counterparts. As of August, 1 in 1,125 Black Americans has died from COVID-19, or 88.4 deaths per 100,000. For perspective, the mortality rate for white Americans was 40.4 deaths per 100,000. The pandemic has exposed, and exacerbated long-standing inequalities present in the United States.

Black communities face barriers in accessing quality health care in the United States, with racial disparities in health insurance coverage playing a large role. Black individuals in the United States are more likely than white individuals to be without health insurance. Other factors that can interfere with access to healthcare include lack of transportation, lack of childcare, or the inability to take time off of work. A disproportionate burden of preexisting chronic medical conditions also contributes to the COVID-19 racial disparities. A recent study revealed that Black workers are disproportionately represented among essential workers during the pandemic. While this protects some Black workers from unemployment in the short term, Black people still had a higher overall rate of unemployment after the pandemic than white people, and Black workers are facing more severe health insecurity. Living conditions for many Black Americans may further contribute to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 for a multitude of reasons including housing density, lack of healthy food options, targeted marketing, and increased pollution.

It is implausible that a single factor alone has produced the stark racial disparities that the pandemic has exposed. More likely, the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on Black communities is just the latest example of long-standing systemic inequities throughout the United States.

Be on the lookout for an expanded version of Madison’s blog post to be published on Awaken in October.

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