As global leaders and world health organizations seek to slow down or find a cure for the COVID-19, more commonly referred to as coronavirus disease, rumors are spreading that this highly contagious and potentially deadly virus does not affect Black people. It has become another “chickens coming home to roost” theory that has no basis in fact.
There is a lot of literature available from reliable sources that explains what the novel coronavirus is, its origins, symptoms, how it spreads, and, most important, how to protect yourself. It’s the newest of the human coronaviruses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that usually causes no more than a mild upper respiratory tract illness. We witnessed the disease spread across China, and now it’s spreading around the globe, including Africa, and in cities across the U.S., including D.C. and nearby Maryland and Virginia.
The fact that the disease is relatively non-existent in Africa – only 95 cases reported so far – is explained in an online publication called New Scientist, which also questioned why there are so few COVID-19 cases reported in Africa. The article states: “African countries are both vulnerable and potentially more resilient to the coronavirus. On the one hand, the population is much younger than in Europe and China. The median population age in the U.K. is 40.2 and in China, it is 37, but this figure is 17.9 in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country.”
But the article also suggests that with only 95 cases reported on the continent as of March 10, it is clear that should an outbreak occur, most African countries only have about 200 testing kits per country. Plus, Africa is still reeling from the Ebola crisis and other diseases, including malaria and measles.
In the U.S., as the coronavirus spreads, Black people will most assuredly be affected in their pocketbooks. As businesses close and events are canceled, Black and brown people who dominate the service industries will be the ones forced to stay home and survive without pay. Without pay, Black people will most likely be the ones unable to pay their utility bills, including heat and water needed to wash their hands properly. As schools close, Black children, who lack access to computers and broadband, will most likely fall increasingly behind. As store shelves empty, some will ask why certain stores were the first to be replenished. And, locally, we repeat, where is the hospital that will serve the needs of Wards 5, 7 and 8 residents?
We must view this as a humanitarian crisis and not an “us” versus “them” crisis. Everyone is affected, regardless of race, one way or another.