Forewarned is forearmed in the case of the novel coronavirus, which American health officials believe will affect the nation's respiratory systems in coming weeks. (Courtesy of CDC)
Courtesy of CDC

The government’s leading expert on infectious diseases said it’s not the case that African Americans are getting infected more often with the novel coronavirus, but rather that the prevalence of underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and asthma lead to their incidences of higher intensive care unit and death rates.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has served as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, stressed at Tuesday’s White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing how African Americans have been harder hit by the coronavirus pandemic in terms of an escalating death toll compared to the rest of the population.

“And the reason I want to bring it up, because I couldn’t help reflecting on how sometimes when you’re in the middle of a crisis, like we are now with the coronavirus, it really does have, ultimately, shine a very bright light on some of the real weaknesses and foibles in our society,” Fauci said.

For example, in Chicago, more than half of all positive pandemic test results and 72 percent of virus-related deaths have been among African Americans, who make up just 32 percent of the city’s population and 15 percent for the entire state of Illinois.

Meanwhile, in Atlanta, Dr. Stephanie Miles-Richardson, an associate dean at Morehouse School of Medicine, noted how Black people already face disproportionate health issues in comparison to whites.

Miles-Richardson emphasized that the African American community is already at risk for heart disease and other chronic illnesses, making the community a larger target for contracting and succumbing to the pandemic.

“The simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases in one person also makes it doubly hard to treat the virus,” Miles-Richardson said. “It’s for that reason that the emphasis for the Black community has to be on practicing preventative measures that are crucial for our survival.”

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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