A searing report released Tuesday by the Black Coalition Against COVID details the immense toll the Covid-19 pandemic has taken — and continues to take — on Black communities, and calls for continued vigilance and action to prevent further losses even as the rest of the nation is eager to move on.
The report’s authors — physicians and public health and policy experts — note with alarm that even as case rates began to fall sharply across the country earlier this year, the Covid-19 hospitalization rate for Black people was higher than it had been at any time during the pandemic for any racial or ethnic group. For the week ending Jan. 8, 2022, the hospitalization rate for Black Americans was 64 per 100,000 — more than twice the overall rate. Rates for all Americans have since fallen, though they remain much higher for Black people.
“What we see in this report is startling,” said Marcella Nunez-Smith, an associate dean and professor of internal medicine, public health, and management at Yale University who chaired President Biden’s Covid-19 Health Equity Task Force. “The juxtaposition — that for some, the pandemic is over, yet the hospitalization rate for Black people is higher than it’s ever been — is stark.”
The report details the massive disparities — including not just higher overall case and death rates but also economic harms — experienced by Black Americans. These include:
Older Black Americans (between 65-74) were five times more likely to die than white Americans.
Between April 2020 and June 2021, 1 in 310 Black children lost a parent or caregiver compared to 1 in 738 white children.
Learning time lost by students who were Black or in other racial or ethnic groups was estimated to be one year, compared to four to eight months for white students.
Black Americans were twice as likely as white Americans to experience food insecurity.
Black Americans are more likely to experience pandemic-related anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders compared with white Americans.
The report states clearly that these worse outcomes were not due to any biological factors or genetic predisposition, but were a “predictable result of structural and social realities” such as Black Americans being overrepresented in essential-worker jobs, including practical and vocational nursing; being more likely to live in densely populated urban areas; and having preexisting medical conditions such as hypertension and diabetes due to differential access to health care.
In addition, the report says, many Black Americans faced barriers to testing and vaccination in the beginning of the pandemic, and also