Although the coronavirus doesn’t seem to discriminate—stars such as Tom Hanks and royalty such as Prince Charles have been infected—some data shows otherwise. In fact, certain groups seem to be getting hit harder by the virus; it seems to disproportionally affect African Americans and men compared to other races and genders. This draws attention to the health disparities still present in society.
As cities such as Chicago, Las Vegas, New Orleans and others are starting to report data based on race, African Americans seem to be more at risk with the pandemic. In Chicago, 68% of coronavirus deaths were among African Americans, even though they only make up about 30% of the city’s total population. From an analysis of 14 states, African Americans consisted of 18% of those states’ populations and accounted for 33% of Covid-19 cases, while the white population is 59% of the total population yet only accounted for 45% of the hospitalized cases. As the NAACP and other groups are calling for hospitals and health officials to release ethnic and racial information of coronavirus victims, officials are sharing their thoughts on the reasoning behind this clear division. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said that it is likely due to “underlying conditions that people of color and particularly black folks suffer from, whether it’s diabetes, heart disease, [or] upper respiratory illnesses.” According to statistics, black people are also more likely to have less access to health insurance, which also helps explain why they have been disproportionately victimized. Dr. Jeanette Kowalik, a health commissioner in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a city where 40% of the residents are black, said that “structural racism is to blame.” Many think that President Trump could be taking more steps to improve outcomes for black Americans. To reduce these numbers, involving the federal government more than the state itself could help manage resources and data. Environmental regulations and violation standards changes could help as well. There are difficulties in getting tests in low-income communities, and improvements in this could help a large group of people.
While African Americans seem to be getting hit more than other races, the coronavirus also seems to be killing men more than women. For example, in Italy, almost 60% of the people who tested positive were men, and over 70% of the people who have died were men. In South Korea, more women have tested positive than men, but more men have died from the virus than women, indicating its more fatal effect on men. In fact, White House coronavirus response coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, said that “the mortality in males seems to be twice in every age group of females.” With many speculations as to why this division exists, worldwide data seems to show that more men practice unhealthy habits than women; men seem to smoke and drink five times more than women. For example, in China, over 50% of men smoke, but less than 3% of women do. Some research also suggests that from an evolutionary perspective, women have stronger immune responses against infections than men, as pregnancy gives them an advantage. All in all, behavioral factors seem to be the biggest cause of difference across genders, and with this comes a different level of susceptibility to the virus spreading across the world.
While everyone is susceptible to the virus, these certain groups seem to be more at risk. With socioeconomic and behavioral factors taken into account, researchers are still looking into what causes such a vast difference in infection and death rates.