How the Wider Black Diaspora Is Being Impacted by COVID-19

Local workers in Nairobi, Kenya on March 18, 2020.
Local workers in Nairobi, Kenya on March 18, 2020.
Photo: Getty Images

Black people in the U.S. are dying from coronavirus at a rate higher than any other demographic, and at almost 3 times the rate of white Americans. Structural racism and bias embedded in the country’s health systems along with other inequities have contributed to COVID-19's disproportionate impact on black people in America.


Here’s how other members of the global black diaspora have been impacted by the pandemic so far:


About 3,100 people have died from COVID-19 in Africa, a continent which houses more than 1 billion people. In comparison, close to 100,000 people have died from the virus in the U.S., which has a population of about 380 million.

“The pandemic appears to be taking a different pathway in Africa,” the World Health Organization said recently according to ABC News. Africa’s Center for Disease Control and Patrol reported on Friday that the continent had surpassed the threshold of 100,000 infections.

From ABC News:

“For now COVID-19 has made a soft landfall in Africa, and the continent has been spared the high numbers of deaths which have devastated other regions of the world,” WHO Africa chief Matshidiso Moeti said Friday. “But we must not be lulled into complacency.”

Cases could increase significantly now that many countries are easing lockdowns, the WHO said.

South America

Illustration for article titled How the Wider Black Diaspora Is Being Impacted by COVID-19

South America is a “new epicenter for the disease,” Reuters reported WHO experts saying over the weekend. Brazil, which boasts one of the world’s largest black populations, is second only to the U.S. in number of infections with more than 330,000 confirmed coronavirus cases.

Brazil reported 653 new deaths this weekend, bringing the country’s COVID-19 death toll to more than 22,000. On Saturday, the White House announced it would restrict entry of non-U.S. citizens coming from Brazil to the States due to the high number of confirmed cases there.


Despite the widespread death in Brazil, the country’s Trump-like President has reportedly been downplaying the seriousness of the disease and holding public rallies with supporters.

From CNN:

The health care system in Brazil’s largest city, Sao Paulo, is wavering on the brink of collapse. Its mayor warned that the health system could be overwhelmed soon if residents don’t follow social-distancing guidelines.

President Jair Bolsonaro continues to dismiss the threat of the virus, saying quarantines and lockdowns could have a worse impact on Brazil’s economy. He has repeatedly dismissed Covid-19 as a “little flu” and urged businesses to reopen, even as many governors scramble to implement social-distancing measures and slow the spread.


Authorities in Brazil have approved broad use of the drug hydroxychloroquine for treatment of COVID-19 though WHO doctors reiterated on Friday that clinical evidence does not support the drug’s widespread use against the disease due to the risks it poses, reported Reuters.


Most countries in the Caribbean are starting to see their coronavirus infection curves flatten, News Americas reported recently. But Haiti and the Dominican Republic—which share an island inhabited by 22 million people—still have many active cases.


From News Americas:

The Dominican Republic continues to lead the region still with 5,843 active cases including 113 critical. In total, the island has seen 13,657 cases but 7,366 have recovered while there have been only 488 deaths.

Haiti is starting to see its numbers rise daily with 620 active cases as of last night of the total confirmed case load of 663, meaning only 21 people have so far recovered from the virus.


On Saturday, Haiti’s Ministry of Health reported that the country had recorded 78 new COVID-18 infections in the preceding 24 hours, which pushed its total number of cases to more 800.

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“Black people in the U.S. are dying from coronavirus at a rate higher than any other demographic, and at almost 3 times the rate of white Americans.”

I can imagine three possible reasons for this.

  1. Black Americans have some genetic predisposition to suffering the worst symptoms. (This seems highly unlikely, a last choice answer if nothing else explains the data.)
  2. Black Americans are culturally more susceptible to suffering the worst symptoms. (Maybe larger inter-generational family structures cause more elderly Black people to get COVID-19...maybe, but let’s look for a batter explanation.)
  3. The poverty rate among Black Americans is higher, and poor Americans get what medical care is left after wealthier people take what they need. (DING-DING-DING!!! I think we have a winner!)

Number 3 is far and away the leading candidate for the truth because it has so much supporting data. Black Americans die of nearly everything there is to die of at a higher rate than white Americans. High COVID-19 death rates among Black Americans is exactly what we should have expected. (But we all knew this was going to be the correct answer, didn’t we?)