This is concerning for many black Americans, a group that in the most recent CNN poll revealed that a majority of black adults — 54 percent — knew someone who had been diagnosed with coronavirus. The number of white adults who knew someone diagnosed with coronavirus was less than 40 percent.
And, according to the latest Washington Post-Ipsos poll, nearly 3 in 4 — 74 percent — of adults surveyed think the United States should keep trying to slow the spread of the virus, even if that means keeping many businesses closed. The percentage of black Americans who feel the same is 9 in 10.
This isn’t surprising, considering how devastating the virus’s impact on black America has been.
A study by Amfar, the Foundation for Aids Research, recently showed that disproportionately black counties have been home to more than half — 52 percent — of the coronavirus cases and more than half — 58 percent — of the deaths from covid-19, the disease the virus causes. The authors released the study with the hope that it could shape the decision-making process involving reopening businesses.
“It’s clear that there’s a disproportionate impact of covid-19 diagnoses and deaths among African Americans,” Gregorio Millett, vice president of Amfar, told The Post’s Vanessa Williams. “All of my colleagues fear that with these policies to open up communities, that the brunt of the covid-19 epidemic is not going to be borne equally on all communities, that we will likely see greater covid-19 deaths as well as cases in African American communities.”
One argument in support of reopening businesses is that doing so might benefit black Americans — a group that has been deeply affected by the economic downturn. According to another recent Post-Ipsos poll, 16 percent of black Americans report being laid off or furloughed since the outbreak began in the United States. The number is 11 percent for white Americans.
And the most recent jobs numbers showed that the black unemployment rate is 16.7 percent — two points higher than the overall unemployment rate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But opening businesses in communities that do not have the health-care infrastructure to respond to an expected spike in cases — which is the case in many predominantly black neighborhoods — appears to cause great discomfort for some in a community that is arguably suffering most from the coronavirus.
Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has acknowledged the virus’s harmful impact on black communities, and at a Senate hearing Tuesday warned of a possible escalation of cases if states are opened too quickly.
“If some areas, cities, states or what have you, jump over those various checkpoints and prematurely open up without having the capability of being able to respond effectively and efficiently, my concern is that we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks,” he said. “I have been very clear in my message — to try, to the best extent possible, to go by the guidelines, which have been very well thought-out and very well delineated.”
Moving forward with reopening could potentially harm black Americans most. As states across the country attempt to return to normal under varying degrees of caution to help protect residents from contracting and dying from the coronavirus, black Americans will probably be watching the decision-making processes of their political leaders closely as they attempt to make the best decisions for themselves.