Although there is still so much medical professionals don’t know about COVID-19, preliminary data throughout the country point to racial disparities in the pandemic.

Recent Southern California numbers show African Americans account for 15 percent of the novel coronavirus-related illnesses and deaths, despite the fact that they only make up 9 percent of Los Angeles County’s population. Dr. Chandra Ford, Associate Professor in the Department of Community Health and Sciences at UCLA and Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Racism, Social Justice and Health, tells Inside the Issues that, initially, data didn’t seem to suggest high rates of illness in African American communities.

“In Los Angeles when we first started getting data, the data suggested that the highest rates of COVID-19 infection were actually occurring in the wealthier communities and that seemed premature to me and my colleagues,” she said. “In part because testing was not widely available to everyone and that seemed to reflect people who had access to testing and people who had traveled abroad.” 

Dr. Ford said the messaging in black communities has gone from seeing it as a virus that affects groups differently to stigmatizing why certain groups are contracting the coronavirus. She said lower-income communities aren’t able to easily access hospitals or high-quality health care.


“We’re talking about a virus that target the lungs and so an immediate concern is the long-standing and well-documented tendency to place environmental hazards, pollutants, in poor and racial ethnic minority communities of color and, in this case, that kind of living close to an air polluter, will make it worse for people who live in those areas," she said.

She also talked about the concern that African Americans have with racial profiling while wearing non-medical protective masks in public.

Watch the clip above for more.

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