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Coronavirus exposing unequal healthcare system, minorities get worse care, NAACP says

Federal scientists say the coronavirus is disproportionately affecting the African American community.

WASHINGTON — The coronavirus has not only brought 'normal' life to a standstill but it appears to be having a greater impact on African Americans. 

"It's not that they're getting infected more often, [it] is that when they do get infected their underlying medical conditions: diabetes, hypertension, obesity, the asthma...give them a higher death rate," explained Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. 

In places like New Orleans, for instance, African Americans makeup 60% of the population but represent 70% of the COVID-19 deaths. 

In the District, African Americans represent 56% of COVID-19 deaths. In Maryland, the highest number of cases of COVID-19 were in Prince George's County, where the state has the largest concentration of African Americans. 

In Virginia, however, African Americans represent a little more than 20% of the population but represent 14% of confirmed coronavirus cases. 

Credit: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation's April 2 projection called for D.C. to hit its coronavirus peak by April 15.

"We know that the limited data this is coming through, we are seeing African Americans disproportionately affected by it. There definitely needs to be an urgent health education outreach campaign in minority and communities of people of color," explained WUSA 9 contributor and infectious disease specialist Dr. Linda Nabha. 

The civil rights organization, NAACP, has been working on educating people about the disparity. 

"The pandemic we've been in this country has happened before coronavirus. And now the virus is showing how these disparities play out in real-time," Jamal Watkins, Vice President for Civic Engagement for the NAACP said.

Numerous studies show the U.S. healthcare system has historically presented African Americans with second-rate healthcare. 

Racial and ethnic minorities receive lower-quality health care than white people-even when insurance status, income, age, and conditions are the same, according to National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report and report by the National Academy of Medicine. 

"We have to take into account that we are predisposed because of the structures in this country that face health crisis in a different way," Watkins explained. "So, for the coronavirus, it really means taking social distancing very seriously. It means staying at home. It really means following the guidelines we're getting from the World Health Organization." 

The NAACP is hosting a series of virtual town halls to explore the economic, health and policy implications of the coronavirus on communities of color.  If you're interested in the town hall, visit their website for more information.

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