We have already seen one community hurt substantially: As of April 21st, 63% of COVID-19 deaths in Mississippi have been black – the highest of any state. Other states where blacks make up an alarming portion of COVID-19 fatalities include 57% in South Carolina, 56% in Louisiana, 53% in Georgia, 48% in Alabama, 40% in Maryland, 40% in Michigan, 39% in Illinois, 38% in North Carolina, 38% in Missouri, 37% in Arkansas, 35% in Wisconsin, 32% in Tennessee and 28% in New York. It’s also worth noting that Hispanics have accounted for 34% of deaths in New York, and Native Americans have accounted for 18% of deaths in Arizona. All places where these communities have been disproportionately affected. Many states, some heavily affected like New Jersey, have a large portion of unknown ethnic/racial status of fatalities, but the trend of inordinate minority representation is expected to continue.
Where we live also has a clear impact on our direct risks from this virus; although major metropolitan cities like New York have been hit incredibly hard, we have seen rural communities, like here in Albany, Georgia, post some of the highest per-capita COVID-19 mortality rates in the country. With even less access to healthcare than their urban counterparts, rural communities face immense danger when dealing with a pandemic.
Unforgettably, healthcare workers remain at the forefront of this pandemic. Despite inadequate personal protective equipment and in some cases resorting to handmade masks and gowns, healthcare workers continue to provide care — sometimes at the expense of their own health. We continue to see physicians, nurses, and others die of COVID-19. To all of those working during this period, I want to say thank you.
So how do we compare to other places across the globe? There’s a great deal we could have done differently to prepare for this; but is America now doing all that it can? Canada will provide $2,000 a month for the next 4 months for all workers laid-off during this period, along with $300 per child. The U.S.A. is providing many Americans with a single payment of $1,200, along with $500 per child. Italy has halted mortgage payments until further notice. Mortgage payments continue to be made in the U.S. In Portugal, all asylum-seekers and migrants have temporarily been given citizenship status and access to healthcare in an effort to contain the spread of the virus. An almost unthinkable action here in the U.SA.
Disregarding the advice of the CDC and greater medical community, Gov. Brian Kemp has approved the reopening of some non-essential businesses like salons, tattoo shops, bowling alleys, and more as early as Friday, April 24th. Because of this, it is likely we will see another spike in cases and fatalities from the virus. I encourage all of those who are capable to shelter in place at least until April 30th.
As we continue to navigate these unprecedented times, I hope we can find solidarity and compassion for all members of our community. Now more than ever, we must come together to learn from this as we try to create a better America. While this has had a profound impact on all of us, we should continue to keep perspective and keep those less fortunate in mind, as well as those who have already lost people close to them from this virus. Where we live, where we’re from, what we look like, and our financial security plays a major role in our ability to stay safe during this pandemic. Not everyone can easily access healthcare, not everyone can socially distance, not everyone can access government programs, and not everyone can go home to their families after caring for their patients.
Marshall Waller is a 3rd-year medical student at the Medical College of Georgia.