The Racial Time Bomb in the Covid-19 Crisis Pre-existing health conditions leave one group particularly vulnerable.

While Canadian universal healthcare will ensure that racial disparities in death rates should be less than in the USA, expect to see some differences and hopefully the data is being collected on COVID-19 victims beyond age and gender:

Early Monday morning the email arrived. The subject line began, “ALARM AT THE GATE,” written in all caps. Someone had died. That is always what that phrasing means.

The message came via a group email list maintained by the fraternity I joined in college some 30 years ago.

A younger member, a rising chef in his 30s, had died. As the email read, he passed away “due to immune system complications resulting from contracting the Covid-19 virus as a Type-1 diabetic.” He was in Detroit, which has emerged as a hot spot for the virus.

This was the third death I’d heard about of someone with a connection to my college or a friend who went there. All relatively young, all black men, all diabetics. The two others were in New Orleans, another emerging hot spot.

I recalled an arresting article I’d read from “Undark,” a Knight Foundation-funded, science-oriented digital magazine in Cambridge, Mass. (I’m on the advisory board of the magazine.) As the article pointed out, the virus may prove most devastating in the South because of “poorer health, curbed health care access and skepticism of government.”

What the article doesn’t state outright, but I read in the subtext, was that the virus is more likely to be deadly to black people. Most black people in America still live in the South. The states with the highest percentage of black people are in the South.

We may be waiting for a racial time bomb to explode with this disease.

In the early days of the virus, the relatively few cases on the African continent, I believe, gave black people in America a false sense of security, that black people may be somehow less susceptible to it.

But that is not true, and African-Americans should not look to Africa as the model. Even as researchers worry about Africans’ vulnerabilities — some being the same issues that exist in the American South — African countries also have advantages that America and, in particular, African-Americans don’t.

As Berkeley economist Edward Miguel explained, “The median age in a lot of countries is 20 or 18, much younger than in Europe, and it appears that young people who are infected are often asymptomatic or just get a cold.” The median age in the United States is 38. Furthermore, some African nations have a medical infrastructure experienced in dealing with pandemics, and in many cases people still live in rural areas.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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