The numbers are not all in (because once again, nobody thought to collect the data) but it is increasingly clear that African Americans are dying at highly disproportionate rates from COVID-19. These types of reports are coming in from Milwaukee, Michigan, Chicago, and North Carolina. In New Orleans a good number of the deaths are being reported out of Orleans Parish (40% black).
Have we forgotten that before the pandemic that we were already operating in a health system that delivers disparate outcomes to black folks? African Americans are much more likely to suffer from underlying conditions of heart disease, hypertension, asthma high blood pressure and HIV? With median wealth disparities already at 13:1 (white/black), it shouldn’t be hard to understand why blacks are underinsured, underemployed, more likely to work in service industries (essential workers) and less likely to be able to work form home.
The CDC, which usually reports detailed data on outbreaks is silent on reporting racially, disaggregated data on COVID-19. Last week four United States Senators and Representatives called on the Secretary of Health and Human Services to release race disaggregated data on the COVID-19. No numbers have been released to date. Yesterday we asked the Vermont Health Department to release racially disaggregated data on COVID-19 No response.
Our elected and appointed officials know the devastating adverse economic impact that centuries of systemic racism has dealt black people in the United States. Justice For All has never missed an opportunity to educate them and remind them. We have been doing outreach and education on systemic racism in Vermont for the last five years. In Vermont, the Attorney General and Human Rights Commission authored a report acknowledging the impacts of systemic racism across all State systems of government in 2017. The CDC and our Health Departments have made it abundantly clear that the aforementioned underlying conditions likely will lead to fatal outcomes. Science tells us that the data should be collected. Wisdom tells us that our national and statewide emergency response to COVID-19 must include a plan to provide increased protection and relief for African Americans. Common senses should tell us that to do nothing is tantamount an acceleration of modern day genocide.
We must avoid our natural desire to embrace the anecdotal assertion that this is merely a class issue – it is that and more! We have known that systemic racism has and continues to adversely impact African Americans across all sectors and we now see them dying of COVID-19 at highly disproportionate rates. We call on the Health Commissioner to collect and make public disaggregated COVID-19 data. We call on the Governor to create an Emergency Task Force to address COVID-19 impact on African Americans in Vermont. Legislators, look at the data that is emerging nationally in light of the underlying impact of systemic racism in the United States and Vermont. You must develop policies that include medical, community outreach and education and economic relief approaches that provide immediate enhanced protection to Vermont African Americans and ensure that this work is sustainable in moving forward.