Coronavirus Report

Fauci: Institutional racism playing role in disproportionate coronavirus impact on Black community

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Tuesday that he thinks institutional racism has played a role in the disproportionate impact the coronavirus outbreak has had on the Black community in the U.S. 

“Obviously the African American community has suffered from racism for a very, very long period of time and I cannot imagine that that has not contributed to the conditions that they find themselves in economically and otherwise,” Fauci said while testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. 

The comments from Fauci, a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, came in response to questions from Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) about the role institutional racism and structural discrimination has played during the pandemic. 

Fauci said during the hearing that a combination of factors could explain why the African American and other minority communities were being affected by the virus at disproportionate levels. 

“One is the risk of infection. Because of economic and other considerations, the jobs that the majority of them would find themselves in does not allow them to protect themselves by looking into a computer and doing telework,” Fauci said. “Most of them are … on the outside, having to mingle in a society in which the virus is circulating. So right at the get go, they have a greater risk of getting infected.”

He added that a second factor relates to the prevalence of underlying health conditions among certain demographics. 

“We know from a lot of experience now, that the situation regarding whether or not you have serious consequences, hospitalizations, intubations, complications and death relate very strongly to the prevalence and incidence of underlying co-morbid conditions, which are clearly more expressed in the African American population than the rest of the population,” he said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. had reported more than 2.3 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and nearly 121,000 deaths from it. Data emerged early on that the virus was disproportionately affecting Black and Latino communities. 

New statistics released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services this week showed that African Americans enrolled in Medicare were four times more likely to be hospitalized because of the virus than white Americans, NPR reported. Latinos were also about two times more likely to be hospitalized than white people, according to the study. 

The findings came as the nation has been gripped by protests over police brutality and racial injustice after the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of the police. Activists have demanded lawmakers take greater steps to combat systemic racism in the country. 

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said earlier this month that systemic racism exists “across the board” in America. 

“It’s not just in law enforcement, it’s across the board. It’s in housing, it’s in education, and it’s in everything we do. It’s real. It’s genuine. It’s serious,” he said. 

Tags Anthony Fauci Bobby Rush Coronavirus COVID-19 Institutional racism Joe Biden racial inequality systemic racism

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