Our experts share resources and their insight to help people of color remain safe.

By Nashia Baker
July 01, 2020
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businesswoman wearing protective mask and sitting at her desk cleaning hands with sanitizer
Credit: Getty / Luis Alvarez

The coronavirus pandemic has taken the entire world by storm, but in the United States, COVID-19 has hit certain groups harder than others. According to Assessing Differential Impacts of COVID-19 on Black Communities, a peer-reviewed paper published by Annals of Epidemiology, the coronavirus has impacted the health of those within Black and minority communities the most. "Roughly one in five counties nationally is disproportionately Black and only represent 35 percent of the United States population, but we found that these counties accounted for nearly half of COVID-19 cases and 58 percent of COVID-19 deaths," the paper's researchers noted. The study went on to share that factors like widespread discrimination and a lack of access to health care contribute to the direct challenges communities of color face when battling this virus.

Here, we ask experts for insight into how and why the virus impacts Black and minority communities the most and what those most vulnerable can do to stay safe in the long term.

Learn more about the virus' impact nationwide.

While there are several reasons why the virus impacts people of color more severely, Dr. Letitia Dzirasa, M.D., the Commissioner of Health at the Baltimore City Health Department, says that they largely stem from economic and social conditions. "Racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to live in more densely populated areas and experience residential segregation," she says. "They are also more likely to live in multigenerational households and live farther from grocery stores and medical facilities."

Along with these factors—and others, like overrepresentation in the penal system, essential jobs, and mass transit professions that can lead to increased COVID-19 exposure—many Black and Brown individuals have higher rates of chronic illness that can contribute to the coronavirus' impact on their health. Dr. Gregory L. Hall, M.D., the author of Patient-Centered Clinical Care for African Americans ($19.99, springer.com), notes that while chronic diseases, such as heart disease and hypertension, are common, the coronavirus is now exposing these illnesses on a larger scale; sufferers are less likely to beat the virus.

Understand the warning signs—and boost your immunity.

As outbreaks continue to occur throughout the country, it's critical to monitor yourself for any of the coronavirus' early signs. "There are multiple symptoms that people should look out for, including a fever [of about 100.4 degrees], cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle and body aches, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, headaches, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion, and/or runny nose," Dr. Dzirasa says.

There are also everyday practices and safety precautions to implement—like eating a nutritious, balanced diet and exercising, if possible—right now. "Getting adequate exercise strengthens the heart and opens circulation," Dr. Hall shares. "Having sufficient vitamin capacity is also important, particularly vitamin D, which has been shown to boost overall health in African Americans." Monitoring your interactions with others is also important as social settings shift. "Without a massive vaccination of the majority of the country, we will likely need to continue some measures of social distancing and wear cloth face coverings as a means of protecting ourselves and others from the spread of coronavirus," adds Dr. Dzirasa.

Seek out resources and testing sites.

Even in the midst of the pandemic, many of those on the front lines have put together both testing sites and educative resources for communities of color. "We've seen our churches, mosques, and synagogues step up to become community testing sites, filling a need especially in situations where there are no other local health care providers in marginalized communities," Dr. Dzirasa notes. "I also have to acknowledge the work of the Baltimore chapter members of the NAACP, who have taken it upon themselves to educate Black and Brown residents about the dangers of the coronavirus." To learn more about the coronavirus' impact on communities of color and to find additional resources in your area, visit websites including the NAACP, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization.

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