Alabama follows national trend of disproportionate rate of coronavirus deaths for African Americans

While black Alabamians are only about 27 percent of the state's population, they represent more than 55 percent of the states coronavirus-related deaths.

Posted: Apr 10, 2020 7:06 PM
Updated: Apr 18, 2020 10:41 PM

As the number of coronavirus cases and deaths in Alabama continues to rise, another trend became alarmingly apparent: African-Americans are not only getting infected at a disproportionate rate, but they are also make up the majority of deaths.

The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH)published its latest stats on the racial breakdown of cases on Thursday. The data shows that of the 2,881 cases at the time, 36.4 percent of those infected with the coronavirus (COVID-19) were black and 47.7 percent were white.

The data also showed that African-Americans made up 55.2 percent of the 58 confirmed deaths. However, they only make up 26.8 percent of the population in Alabama.

"It's been intensified and amplified and exacerbated by this, by these things were, as they say in the insurance industry, 'preexisting conditions,'" said the Rev. Gregory Bentley.

Bentley lead the Madison County chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) since it was established four years ago. He said hearing the numbers from the ADPH didn't shock him.

"Disappointed, but not surprised at all because I know American history and I know the American experience," said Bentley.

Part of that experience is a gap between the black and white communities, both on wealth as well as health care. According to the U.S. Department of Health's Office on Minority Health, non-Hispanic black citizens have a median household income of $40,165 as of 2017. For non-Hispanic white residents, that number is $65,845.

Regarding health insurance, 55.5 percent of black people have private health insurance compared to 75.4 percent of white people.

Dr. Nauman Qureshi, a physician with Athens Internal Medicine, said other preexisting medical conditions also factor into why black people are contracting the virus at a higher rate. 

"Factors come into play, such as your age, whether you have diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, asthma. All of these are more common in the African-American population and so that is why the African-American population tends to get sicker when they catch the virus," said Qureshi.

While residents of Alabama are under a stay at home order, a sizable proportion of black residents work in jobs that are considered "essential" and don't always allow ideal social distancing.

"They probably cannot work from home. They don't have that option. They're in closer contact with each other, their work space is less and they're more confined. So all of that probably conspires to make it a perfect storm," said Qureshi.

Groups like the Alabama New South Coalition are trying to educate those in the black community about the seriousness of the virus and their increased vulnerability to it.

Jessica Fortune Barker, the president of the Madison County chapter, said her focus changed when she and others were confronted with the stark statistics.

"For me it changed to awareness. We have to educate our community," said Fortune Barker. "So for people like me, I started calling on what I call our 'community influencers.' Hey, we have to get information out on social media. We have a hashtag, #CopingThroughCOVID, that we're using to try and share information."

She said early on in the outbreak, she saw people in the black community were joking about the virus and not taking it seriously. She said as that changes, she wants people to remain cautious, but confident.

"We're a resilient people, you know. We're used to having to fight from a disadvantaged standpoint. And so I just always tell my community that, hey, these things may be impacting us, but we have the strength and the resiliency and we can pull through this together," said Fortune Baker.

As for the next steps, Jerry Burnet, the president of the Huntsville/Madison County chapter of the NAACP, said with these facts being so apparent now, legislators in Alabama and on Capitol Hill need to do more to ensure the health of the American public.

"We need to press our elected officials to pass bills, but immediately pass affordable health care. Make sure that everyone has access to affordable health care because we know it effects poor people and people of color by not having the ability to address their health issues," said Burnet.

Bentley goes one step further and said now is exactly the time to enact universal health care in the United States, akin to the Medicare for All proposal put forth by formal presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders.

"Economically, it's very feasible. We've just shown that by the amount of money we've coughed up and pumped into the economic system. You know, why can't that money be put toward human welfare and human well-being?" asked Bentley. "So it's not an issue of capacity or ability. It's an issue of willingness. Do we have the will and the want-to to do what's right by the people.'

He said he's glad that Americans are having a conversation now about some of the underlying issues that led to this crisis and hopes that momentum to find solutions doesn't fade when the virus does.

"There will be another crisis, whether it's COVID-19 or Katrina or whatever the case may be, that exposes the preexisting conditions that have been with us for a long time," said Bentley.

"So we need to do what we need to do address this immediate crisis, which is very real, but we also need to look at the conditions that made this much more deadly and dangerous for some and not others."

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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 44375

Reported Deaths: 984
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson5221152
Montgomery4127103
Mobile4080134
Tuscaloosa228842
Marshall171110
Madison14307
Lee138437
Shelby128423
Morgan11025
Walker93924
Elmore92514
Franklin89514
Dallas8809
Baldwin8649
Etowah73913
DeKalb7195
Butler63328
Chambers62927
Autauga60712
Tallapoosa59169
Russell5520
Unassigned50323
Houston4964
Limestone4950
Lauderdale4906
Lowndes47221
Cullman4524
Pike4295
Colbert3956
St. Clair3822
Coffee3772
Bullock36910
Covington3587
Calhoun3545
Escambia3506
Barbour3492
Hale31121
Talladega3097
Marengo30211
Wilcox2918
Dale2880
Sumter28512
Clarke2746
Jackson2732
Winston2583
Chilton2462
Blount2351
Monroe2352
Pickens2356
Marion22413
Conecuh2097
Randolph2069
Choctaw19512
Macon1949
Bibb1901
Greene1868
Perry1771
Henry1343
Crenshaw1253
Washington1097
Lawrence1080
Cherokee977
Geneva800
Lamar771
Fayette701
Clay652
Coosa581
Cleburne361
Out of AL00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 51316

Reported Deaths: 645
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby11793200
Davidson11089122
Rutherford298735
Hamilton278135
Sumner161052
Trousdale14985
Williamson131315
Out of TN11857
Knox11717
Wilson94117
Putnam8837
Robertson83411
Sevier8043
Bradley7073
Lake6920
Tipton6455
Unassigned6351
Bledsoe6201
Bedford5705
Montgomery5547
Macon4654
Maury3543
Hardeman3434
Hamblen3404
Fayette3172
Madison2992
Loudon2871
Rhea2860
Dyer2511
McMinn23718
Cheatham2301
Blount2273
Dickson2090
Cumberland1814
Washington1650
Lawrence1636
Lauderdale1453
Anderson1422
Monroe1406
Jefferson1360
Gibson1291
Smith1201
Coffee1190
Sullivan1172
Obion1122
Hardin1087
Greene1032
Cocke940
Haywood922
Marshall911
Franklin873
Wayne860
Hickman800
Warren760
Marion734
McNairy730
White703
DeKalb670
Lincoln640
Weakley641
Grundy621
Overton621
Roane620
Giles601
Carter591
Hawkins572
Unicoi550
Campbell481
Carroll471
Henderson460
Claiborne450
Polk450
Henry440
Johnson440
Grainger420
Sequatchie420
Crockett383
Cannon370
Chester340
Perry340
Meigs320
Humphreys281
Jackson270
Morgan271
Stewart230
Decatur220
Fentress220
Union180
Clay170
Scott170
Houston150
Benton131
Moore120
Van Buren80
Hancock60
Lewis60
Pickett60

 

 

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