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The Covid-19 Pandemic

by Ian Round7:00 pmApr 9, 20200

Coronavirus outbreak affects blacks in Maryland disproportionately, data show

Maryland is about 30% black, but blacks account for 37% of known COVID-19 cases and 40% of known deaths.

Above: News about the coronavirus outbreak on Baltimore’s North Avenue. (Fern Shen)

Black Marylanders are becoming infected with, and dying from, the coronavirus at disproportionate rates, preliminary data from the Maryland Department of Health show.

The information, released today following a directive from Gov. Larry Hogan, is similar to that found in other cities and states that had already collected data on patients’ races.

With about 75% of the available data compiled in Maryland, the numbers “show troubling disparities and point to a persistent public health challenge that we must address,” Hogan said.

About 30% of Maryland residents are black, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but black people account for about 37% of known COVID-19 cases and 40% of known deaths.

Of the 138 known Marylanders who have died so far of the coronavirus, 55 were black.

Health and Economic Factors

The outcry over the dearth of racial data on the pandemic has grown in recent days.

“Everywhere we look, the coronavirus is devastating our communities,” Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP commented in an Associated Press review of COVID-19 data by race, obtained from the localities currently providing it.

About 42% of the victims whose racial identity was shared by officials were black, according to the analysis. African Americans account for roughly 21% of the total population in the areas covered by the analysis.

A message from the experts: COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate (3/24/20)

While the data is incomplete and still being reviewed, racism and inequity has made many African Americans more vulnerable to the virus.

African Americans suffer higher rates of obesity, diabetes and asthma, which makes them more susceptible. They are more likely to be uninsured and have less access to health care.

Zip Code Data

In order to better understand the virus’ uneven impact, some local lawmakers have been pushing for more data.

City Council President Brandon Scott has introduced a bill requiring the city health department to publish data on the race, age, gender and zip code of all known coronavirus cases.

“We need to know what’s in the data so the communities most in need of care can get the support they need,” Scott said.

Earlier this week, 80 state lawmakers, led by Delegate Nick Mosby, signed a letter calling on Hogan to publish data on patients’ races. On Tuesday, Hogan did so.

“Without racial data disaggregated by zip code, local authorities do not know what areas to target to allocate resources to those communities first,” Mosby wrote on Twitter today.

“Every day without the data is a day missed to develop an effective and equitable solution.”

Testing Site to Open

Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young announced today a coronavirus dashboard in partnership with several private partners.

“We are excited to offer this service to city residents as we battle the coronavirus pandemic together,” Young said.

While it does not yet include data on race, the dashboard does include zip code data.

With 64 known cases, the 21215 zip code, which includes the Park Heights and Pimlico neighborhoods, has far more than any other zip code in the city.

Young said the city’s first coronavirus screening and testing site will open tomorrow morning at the Pimlico Race Course for patients with symptoms, an appointment and a referral from a doctor.

It is unlikely that the city will open testing sites in addition to the one that will open tomorrow at Pimlco Race Course.

Young said he decided to open the testing site at Pimlico because of the disproportionate impact of the virus on the area.

But he also said it’s unlikely that the city will open other testing sites in the near future.

“I think it’s premature,” he stated in a press conference.

Once again, the mayor stressed the importance of residents staying at home and reducing the burden on hospitals and other healthcare facilities. If in need of coronavirus advice, he urged residents to call 211.

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