Kamala Harris Calls Out the Disproportionate Effect of COVID-19 on Black Communities

Communities across the world are facing the adverse and downright deadly effects of the coronavirus pandemic—but not everyone is experiencing the brunt of the disease equally. In an essay published today by ELLE, California Senator Kamala Harris explained why.

“This pandemic further reinforces historic inequities, which have roots in slavery and Jim Crow laws, that remain persistent and profound to this very day,” she wrote, adding that across the country, the current available data indicates that counties with a majority-Black population “have an infection rate three times and a death rate six times that of majority white counties.”

People with underlying health conditions are more susceptible to getting infected with COVID-19. Harris noted that Black people suffer from such health conditions at disproportionate rates. “In fact, 2.6 million Black people have asthma (partly due to high levels of air pollution in our neighborhoods) and more than 40% of Black people have high blood pressure,” the senator wrote. “Black people are also more likely to have lupus and sickle cell anemia, a blood disorder that makes a person particularly vulnerable to infections. Pre-existing conditions combined with having high-exposure jobs and inadequate health care is leading to the deadly consequences we are seeing across the country.”

Besides the obvious health repercussions from the novel coronavirus, there are also economic implications for those facing sudden unemployment. “For the Black community, a lack of wealth results from a long history of discrimination that has led to the median Black household making 59 cents to the dollar of the median white household, Black people having more student debt than their white counterparts, less homeownership, and a lack of capital for Black businesses,” Harris added.

And for schools moving into remote learning, some kids without access to computers or Internet will be left behind. “Many children—specifically Black children—don’t have access to the Internet at home, which will likely cause them to fall behind other students in their age group,” she continued. “All of which continues the cycle of inequality.”

The senator elaborated on her policy plans that she says will “support people during this pandemic,” from paid sick leave to a suspension of credit card interest and penalties, evictions, foreclosures, and more. She added, “I’ve demanded the federal government collect data so that we can understand the full scope of COVID-19, form a racial disparities task force that can give recommendations on closing inequalities, and prioritize resources to communities that have been hit hardest by the pandemic.”

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