YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – As COVID-19 cases continue to climb, there are some disparities being brought to light.
The number of COVID-19 cases and death rates among minorities seems to be significantly higher than those among whites.
According to the Centers for Disease Control’s website, among the COVID-19 deaths for which race and ethnicity data were available, death rates among blacks were more than double those among whites.
A New York study shows that African Americans have an average of 92.3 deaths per 100,000, whereas whites have 45.2 deaths per 100,000. Hispanics also had higher numbers at 74.3 deaths per 100,000.
“In terms of the African-American population specifically, and minorities in general, they do not have access to things that you would consider normal and equal,” said Jimmy McWilson, secretary and chair of the education, employment and social justice committee of the Youngstown chapter of the NAACP.
McWilson, who worked in the medical field for 22 years, said there are several factors that may play a role in the gap in numbers.
“You have the triad of education, health and economics. Those three things give you a lot better options than other things, and people who have those options, take those options,” he said.
There have been more than 1 million people infected with COVID-19 in the United States. According to the CDC, African Americans make up 29% of that number, although they only make up 18% of the population.
Hispanics make up 24.6% of that number, even though they only make up 14% of the population.
“Education and economics gives you the greatest opportunity to have the best health,” McWilson said.
McWilson said one of the reasons we may see racial disparities could be a ripple effect dating back to when minorities were prohibited from getting medical treatment.
“History today is a part of what happened yesterday, and yesterday it was deliberately set up that way… Those were the laws. You couldn’t go to the best hospitals that were down the street from you, you might have to go 20 miles,” he said.
He said moving forward, education is one of the most important tools to use in order to reverse these effects.
“You need to know what is good for your body. You need to know that your body functions, just first on stuff that you don’t even think about,” he said.
One thing he said goes hand in hand with health education is knowing what types of food to eat and having the resources to eat them.
The city of Youngstown, which is made up of more than 50% non-white residents, is known as a food desert. Many people have to travel outside the city to purchase fresh food.
This makes it more difficult to eat healthy foods. McWilson said lower income also plays a role in that.
“Diet comes back to, what do you have available to you? If you don’t have a job, what do you eat? You have to buy the cheapest thing you can find in order to survive,” he said.
He said diet can be connected to your income, as well as your education. If you have not been educated on what type of food is good for your body, you may eat unhealthy food, which can become generational. He said this can also be connected to a person’s culture.
“All those things play into where you are. Then, it becomes enculturated into your cultural thinking,” he said.
Governor Mike DeWine addressed the racial disparities in numbers on April 20. He also created a minority task force to examine why African-American Ohioans are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus.
Youngstown Mayor Tito Brown is a member of this task force and will help both in gathering needed information as well as disseminating what he learns from the state to the local community.
“The task force will be focused on the vulnerable population and identifying the underlying health disparities. We want to ensure that the most vulnerable population are at the forefront of getting tested. The goal and objective of the task force will be to create real, tangible outcomes that address the health inequality in Ohio,” Brown said.