The Impact of COVID-19 On African American Lives: A Historical Perspective and Steps to Close the Gap on Further Disparities
In today’s society, it is a well-known fact that many African Americans and other minority groups do not have the same access to healthcare, education and economic opportunities as many of their Caucasian counterparts. This dates back to the 1600s, and was further depicted in the mid-1800s during the Civil War. Fast forward to present day, and African Americans and other minority groups tend to have less access to healthcare, education, and jobs, which are everyday essentials.These disparities are even more visible in the midst of one of the worst crises in the world, COVID-19, which has upended so many lives this past year.
Socioeconomic and healthcare disparities continue to take their toll on minority groups and those residing in poorer areas. An article from Brookings.edu states, “Several pre–COVID-19 economic conditions—including lower levels of income and wealth, higher unemployment, and greater levels of food and housing insecurity—leave Black families with fewer buffers to absorb economic shocks and contribute to Black households’ vulnerability to the COVID-19 economic crisis.” Many families have found themselves homeless and/or in need of healthcare access in the midst of this ever-changing pandemic.
COVID-19 has been statistically proven to affect – and infect – African Americans disproportionately. According to statistics from the US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health, “African Americans are dying at a rate nearly four times higher than the national average … With inadequate access to quality healthcare, viable resources, and information, COVID-19 will continue to have a disastrous effect on African American communities.” Health officials haven’t distributed as many vaccines in African American/minority-populated communities, thus these populations have seen a steady increase in COVID cases due to no immunity yet to the virus. The mortality rate due to their lack of health coverage, wealth, and housing also increases.
Essential workers in minority groups may not have the ability to take time off work to get vaccinated. From this, they are more vulnerable to the virus when they have to work longer hours in order to be able to pay their household’s bills. People in these groups have limited options of jobs because of a lower-end childhood education, which comes at a price: having less flexibility and safety measures taken in that particular job. Minorities also tend to live in close living quarters with their families, making it harder to properly practice social distancing.
What steps can be taken to combat this ongoing disparity?
This week, President Biden and his administration devised a plan to roll out more access to vaccines across the United States. This plan includes strategies to reach more African American and minority groups, including setting up mobile vaccination sites in medically underserved areas in addition to partnering with community health centers and churches in Black and Latino communities, according to a recent CNN article (1/27/21).
The numbers don’t lie: African Americans and other minority groups have been affected much more than Caucasians by the COVID-19 Pandemic, and these facts need to be taken into account when discussing overall healthcare coverage and well-being for everyone.