As the coronavirus spreads across the US, there is increasing concern about how it is impacting low income and minority communities, and whether it will lead to an even deeper divide between the “haves” and the “have-nots.”
As the deaths related to the coronavirus have soared past 11-thousand in the United States, early data is confirming the fear that minority communities are being hit the hardest.
When a new death related to COVID-19 is reported in the US, the information given typically includes the age and gender of the deceased. But the victim’s race and income status also play a key role. And the latest data released shows an alarming trend in which minorities, and specifically African Americans are being impacted by the virus.
In Cook County, the second most populated county in the US, the latest data shows African Americans make up 23 percent of the population, but 58 percent of the COVID-19 deaths. In the city of Chicago, African Americans make up just 29 percent of the population, and 70 percent of the COVID-19 deaths. At least 81 percent of those individuals had underlying health conditions such as hypertension, high blood pressure or diabetes.
Similar statistics have emerged in Michigan and North Carolina—two of the few states publishing statistics that include that include race. And in Wisconsin, reports are now revealing that “African Americans make up almost half of Milwaukee County’s 945 cases and 81 percent of its 27 deaths” despite the fact that the population is just 26 percent black.
There are concerns across the board for low income and minority populations in the United States as unemployment numbers continue to skyrocket by the week, at levels the country hasn’t seen since the Great Depression.
For those who are able to keep their jobs, they are finding themselves on the front lines in the food and service industries, with an increased risk of exposure to the virus.
A combination of low wages, and lack of access to health care could make a COVID-19 diagnosis devastating, as a survey from the Federal Reserve found that almost 40 percent of American adults don’t have $400 dollars in cash, savings or credit to cover an emergency.
But even though President Trump recently signed the largest economic stimulus bill in US history, which Congress touted as holding the answers to concerns about healthcare and unemployment benefits, many have warned that it does much more for big corporations than for the average American.
Human Rights Watch criticized the bill, noting that while sick leave is included, companies with more than 500 employees are exempt.
In a report, the organization went on to note that “Low-income communities are more likely to be exposed to the virus, have higher mortality rates, and suffer economically.” As a result, “In times of economic crisis, these vulnerabilities will be more pronounced for marginal groups.”
With nearly half of the US population classified as either low income or poor, the concern of how the coronavirus pandemic will further cement the divide between the haves and the have-nots – is starting to become a reality.