Why black Americans are at higher risk for coronavirus

Black Americans are at a higher risk for coronavirus.
Black Americans are at a higher risk for coronavirus. (Getty Images)

(CNN) – Black Americans have more existing medical issues, less access to health care, and are more likely to work in unstable jobs -- all factors that have made the coronavirus pandemic disproportionately hurt blacks more.

While everyone is susceptible to Covid-19, black Americans are at higher risk, Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said during an appearance on CBS This Morning on Tuesday.

That racial disparity has been evident in early data on coronavirus deaths in Louisiana, Illinois, Michigan and New Jersey. The federal government has not tracked coronavirus by demographic groups, but Adams and American Medical Association President Dr. Patrice Harris suggested they begin to do so.

"We have early evidence that we need to pay particular attention to race and ethnicity," Harris said Tuesday.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Monday that, of the 512 coronavirus deaths so far, more than 70 percent were African American patients, who make up just 32 percent of the state's population.

Chicago, too, has seen similar numbers: Among those for whom race-ethnicity is known, 72% of the city's deaths have been among blacks, who make up just 30% of the city's population.

"This new data offers a deeply concerning glimpse into the spread of Covid-19 and is a stark reminder of the deep-seated issues which have long created disparate health impacts in communities across Chicago," said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

A combination of structural factors means that black people are getting infected more and dying more of coronavirus, said Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones, a family physician and epidemiologist.