Health Watch: COVID-19 hitting Black Americans hard

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- As the number of COVID patients continues to tick upwards, experts say it's clear - the virus is taking a toll on Black Americans.

Adam Milam, MD, PhD, of Cedars-Sinai, says, "We've been putting band-aids on a lot of these issues, but not addressing the core issues."

Dr. Milam detailed COVID disparities in a newly published article in the journal, Health Equity.

For example, Dr. Milam says in Michigan alone, African Americans are 14 percent of the population but account for more than 40 percent of deaths.

One reason for the disparity - Black Americans have a higher incidence of other health conditions.

"African Americans have a higher prevalence of diabetes, higher prevalence of high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease - all of those are risk factors for COVID-19," Dr. Milam elaborated.

Researchers say that's just a part of a much broader picture.

Noble Maseru, PhD, of the Center for Health Equity at Pitt Public Health expressed, "Racism is not on the death certificate."

But Maseru says pre-existing social conditions do contribute to COVID.

Many employees in service industries could not afford to stay home during the pandemic.

"They're going out as part of that essential work force, and so they're additionally exposing themselves, and they're already vulnerable," Maseru explained.

In the short-term, Maseru advocates more testing and contact tracing in underserved communities. Long-term? Experts say adopting a federal living wage will help families close the health gaps.

Dr. Milam stated, "Now is the opportunity to address some of these issues that have been lingering for three to four decades."

Noble Maseru says housing is also an issue driving COVID infection. In some minority communities, there are several generations or multiple families living in one home, making it easier for the virus to spread.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive & Field Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.
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