Black people and COVID-19: A toxic pairing

FAMU Student Health Services. Photo courtesy Akilah Winters

According to the Leon County Department of Health, 47 percent of the people who were being affected by COVID in May were Black.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also released a statement saying that Black people are three times more likely to contract coronavirus than white people.

Tanya Tatum, director of Student Health Services at FAMU, believes that the reason why Black people can be more susceptible to COVID-19 is due to how many Black people have access to health care.

Our situation now is the lack of access to care and the lack of continuity of care. Its one thing if you go to the minute clinic when you need it but it is a whole other issue if you have ongoing continuity of care with a primary care provider as opposed to just popping in. Health insurance is a big deal and the cost of care and the cost of medications,” Tatum said.

The CDC has also shared some information about what causes Black people to be infected at higher rates. Black people are at a higher risk of contracting COVID because they are more vulnerable to other diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, the CDC noted.

Tatum explained that COVID attacks more than one organ causing it to affect these other underlying conditions.

COVID-19 is a really unique kind of virus but the fact that it attacks multiple organ systems that is when all other underlying conditions put us at higher risk,” Tatum said.

Tatum also believes that the cause for this high number of Black people getting COVID is due to the fact that many Black people are the ones working on the front lines in health care.

I think we are also more likely to get it simply because a lot of us are in first line jobs … we work in the hospitals, we work as first responders, we do the maintenance and housekeeping in all industries and they have to stay open. You have more opportunity to become exposed,” Tatum said.

Another reason why Black people are more vulnerable to COVID is due to how they are treated in the healthcare system. Black women face this issue when giving birth in a hospital; they are two to three times more likely to die in a hospital from child labor than white women, according to the CDC.

Stacy Evans, a human resources employee at Palm Beach County’s Sheriffs Department and someone who has been affected by COVID, said her father-in-law was mistreated while being treated for COVID.

There are some things that raised an eyebrow for me in the treatment of my father-in-law They told us everything was fine and not allowing us to speak with him. We were able to see some of his records and they were giving him the drug that our own president was pushing but other medical professionals were not. That was the only thing that he received along with oxygen,” Evans said.

Evans also said she does not feel that the healthcare system is equal.

There is an expectation that we as African Americans can sustain longer than other races and that we are so tough. The reality is that we need care too. Is there equality? No, I do not feel like there is any equality in treatment,” Evans said.