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Demographics show African Americans may be dying from COVID-19 at a higher rate, experts say

HOUSTON – Ahead of the city council meeting Tuesday, Houston council members asked Dr. David Persse with the Houston Health Department questions regarding COVID-19.

Persse released more demographic information about the 11 people who have died from the coronavirus in Houston. It appears that African Americans may be dying from COVID-19 at a higher rate than people of other races, experts said.

EXPLAINED: Why black Americans are at higher risk for coronavirus

Houston Health Department
Houston Health Department (Houston Health Department)

The deaths include eight African Americans, two Latinos and two Caucasians.

“That’s quite alarming when you look at the actual number of blacks in Houston making up only about 25% of the population, to have that disparity is huge,” said Dr. Kathy Flanagan, president of the Houston Medical Forum, an organizations of black doctors.

Persse said the higher death rate is likely attributed to decades-old disparities in access to healthcare between African American and Caucasian people. He also said several conditions like hypertension, heart disease and diabetes, which put people at a higher risk for complications with coronavirus, are more prevalent in African-Americans.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee said she wants more widespread testing done in communities of color so researchers can have access to more data to explain what’s going on.

“We need to be doing that right now so that we can have better responses to individuals. To simply say that they have underlying conditions, that’s an excuse. That’s unacceptable you’ve got to do something about it” she said.

Other public health officials tracking the coronavirus have seen similar impacts on African Americans in other cities like Philadelphia, Detroit and other cities, NBC News reported.

Just how widespread the disparities might be across the country is difficult to know, because most states and the federal government haven’t released demographic data on the race or ethnicity of people who’ve tested positive for the virus, NBC News reported.

Persse also addressed questions pertaining to occupancy at hospitals and how this compares to previous years.


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