CDC Report Claims Systemic Racism Has Made Covid-19 Deadlier For Black Americans

The report claims that that fundamental problems of inequality and discrimination in America has put Black Americans at an increased rick of exposure to Covid-19.

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According to an internal agency report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Black Americans are at a higher risk of contracting the coronavirus due to issues of fundamental racism. The agency has done previous internalized reports on racial disparities in America that have a direct impact on the way certain demographics are left more susceptible to disease and death. 

“Unfortunately, discrimination, which includes racism, exists in systems meant to protect well-being or health. Discrimination can lead to chronic and toxic stress and shapes social and economic factors that put some people from racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of COVID-19. There is increasing recognition that addressing the underlying inequities in social determinants of health is key to improving health and reducing health disparities,” the report read. 

The CDC’s “Covid-19 Science Update” was dated December 4th and was marked for agency use only but was obtained by a media outlet this week. The most staggering part of the report was the admission that the causes of these inequalities and healthcare disparities is due to decades of systemic racism within the healthcare and economic systems this country runs on, which has thus impacted Black Americans this year with the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“Given disparities in wealth, education, and employment, Black Americans are less likely to be able to stop working or readily change professions to a field with lower risk of Covid exposure.”

The report continued that Black Americans face a “disproportionate burden of Covid-19 infections” and used the state of Pennsylvania as an example; Black individuals make up just 11% of the state population but account for 20% of its Covid-19 cases. Lack of health insurance, crowded housing, and an influx in jobs that aren’t remote but deemed “essential,” were some of the main reasons cited in the report that these major differences in percentages exist. 

The CDC regularly publishes all of its science updates to its website, so it’s unclear as to why they didn’t decide to release this one publicly. When the agency was contacted by Yahoo News, the media outlet that was able to obtain a copy of the report, they refused to comment on it. This is also not the first time the CDC has released reports that discuss how issues of systemic racism lead directly to inequalities within certain demographics and their health. 

Even in the context of this pandemic, back in June the agency released data that showed the virus was hitting communities of color in general a lot harder than it was white communities. In August they released another data report that focused on all the Covid hot spots in the US and found a lot of racial disparities among Black and Latinx populations specifically. Now, Americans are calling upon their politicians to address these inequalities and fix them.

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“The disproportionate impact that Covid-19 has had on people of color is staggering. A specialized task force needs to be created that will directly address these disparities.”

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The above quote came from Vice President-elect Kamala Harris back in April when this pandemic was first beginning to greatly impact America. Last month, Senator Elizabeth Warren also issued a letter to the CDC Director, Rovert Redield, urging him to report on these specific inequalities. “COVID-19 has laid bare the systemic racial and ethnic inequities embedded in the U.S. healthcare system,” part of the letter read. 

One of the biggest initial challenges in tracking these inequalities was the fact that race-specific information wasn’t available in the beginning of this pandemic because of how unpredictable this virus has been. Top health official Brett Giroir told lawmakers back in June that the government was “flying behind on racial data because the information wasn’t being collected by the labs that were performing testing.”

That has since changed but there are still some major gaps in the data for America as a whole. Overall, Black individuals make up 13% of the population in America, but account for 27% of all Covid-19 deaths. White people account for nearly 60% of the total population, but only 25% of the deaths. 

“Public health and clinical interventions may help mitigate the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on African American communities but will not equalize risks. Broader social and economic interventions that consider and modify the underlying inequities in the social determinants of health are urgently needed,” the report stated. With the roll out of vaccines now, these inequalities will likely persist unless more is done systematically with the new administration in the White House.