Recent reports have shown that coronavirus is infecting and killing black people at a disproportionately high rate. In St. Louis, city officials announced Wednesday that all of their COVID-19-related deaths have been black people.
According to St. Louis Post-Dispatch, as of Wednesday, the city has over 480 confirmed cases of coronavirus infections and all 12 people who have died of complications related to the virus were black. City Health Director Dr. Fredrick Echols believes that socioeconomic inequity is a major factor.
“If you look at the health disparities in the city of St. Louis, they’re not unique,” Echols said during a press briefing Wednesday. “Inequities exist across the U.S. and across the world, and it’s posed a challenge for public health agencies, [which] have to address those issues and ensure all individuals, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, income, or educational attainment have access to quality health-related resources.”
Because health officials from the state of Missouri don’t typically disclose the racial breakdown of coronavirus infections and deaths, it’s difficult to determine whether the alarming disparity is a statewide issue or if it’s only the case in the St. Louis region, but the situation in the River City seems clear.
Wednesday, the Dispatch reported that the virus is infecting black people at four times the rate that it infects white people in the city, according to data collected by St. Louis County.
The county said it didn’t know about the race of about 40% of its positive cases, but for the rest, 55.1% were black and 36.6% were white.
That meant there were 183.5 positive cases per 100,000 black people, but just 42.9 positive cases per 100,000 white people.
Of course, St. Louis isn’t the only city heavily populated by black people that is experiencing this disparity.
Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, said Wednesday that the data was “tracking along with what we’re seeing in other cities such as Detroit and New York and Chicago.” He said that black people being at greater risk of infection and death isn’t exclusive to coronavirus and that the socioeconomic conditions that cause the inequity existed long before anyone had even heard of the virus.
“We know that populations that are socioeconomically challenged that don’t have access to good health care, that don’t have access to nutritious food, are victims of many diseases including diabetes, high blood pressure, Garza said. “It’s an indication of social inequities that existed before this pandemic came around.”
On Wednesday health officials said that because COVID-19 cases continue to climb, the city’s stay-at-home order, which was set to end on April 22, will likely be extended.