COVID-19 has been called the “great equalizer,” but that’s not really true. Sure, everyone is hurting, but the novel coronavirus has both exposed and aggravated existing racial and ethnic inequalities. Minority groups have been especially vulnerable to the novel coronavirus, leading to an egregious racial disparity in health outcomes and economic harm. The racial and ethnic disparities are especially wide in Georgia, leading to criticism.
Of Georgia’s 43,321 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 14,324 (33.1%) are African American, and 13,222 (30.5%) are white. Excluding the confirmed coronavirus cases where race was missing or unknown, African Americans account for 46.3% of all cases in Georgia, whereas white people account for 42.7%. For reference, the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 estimates say that 60.5% of Georgians are white only and that 32.4% are African American only.
Minority patients are also more likely to face serious complications from the disease. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 83.2% of COVID-19 hospitalizations in eight Georgia hospitals were non-Hispanic African Americans, a greater share than the researchers expected.
The economic impact is spread unevenly too. According to Politico, African Americans and Latinos are more likely to have lost their jobs than the general population. Thus, groups already at higher risk of contracting the disease are also at a higher risk of economic harm.
These differences are harmful and the result of systemic racial disparities. Part of the reason the novel coronavirus has been especially harmful to minorities is that African Americans and Latinos are over represented in service jobs.
Other issues are a result of where minority communities are located. According to the CDC, many members of minority racial and ethnic groups live far from grocery stores and medical facilities, which makes it harder to receive care or stock up on supplies.
Cori Robinson, the vice president of the University of Georgia chapter of the NAACP, agreed, citing a lack of access to health care and food deserts as factors that contributed to racial inequality.
“The virus has disproportionately impacted low income neighborhoods, which people of color such as African Americans and Latinx communities, are over-represented,” Robinson said. “And living in low-income communities generally means low access to health care. There might be food deserts.”
The novel coronavirus is hurting everyone, but some communities are at much greater risk than others. The pandemic has shown how important it is for policymakers to address these racial and ethnic disparities.
“I feel like a lot of times these communities are kind of overlooked and neglected,” Robinson said. “You look to your leaders to guide you … But, like we saw recently, opening the state when there’s little indication that it should be was pretty irresponsible. And there is a certain type of person and a certain type of community that will be impacted.”