Frenchtown activists take on the racial disparity in the coronavirus pandemic

Posted at 11:17 PM, Apr 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 09:49:52-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The coronavirus impacts African Americans in the U.S. at a higher rate than others.

Data from key-hot-spot-areas shows the number of African Americans with the virus continues to climb.

"We're being disproportionately impacted by a pandemic when we already had health disparities that are greater than most other communities as well," said Dr. Henry Lewis, III, medical expert and Frenchtown advocate.

Four states in the U.S. are seeing African Americans take a major hit due to COVID-19.

Dr. Lewis says underlying health conditions and economic inequity play a major part in recent data.

"When America gets a cold, African Americans get the flu," said Lewis. "When America gets coronavirus, African Americans die."

Dr. Lewis is the former Dean of Florida A&M University's College of Pharmacy and has been in healthcare for years.

He says there has always been a racial disparity in the health of the black community and other populations.

And this pandemic is unlike anything he's ever seen before.

"African Americans are suffering from the coronavirus just like they suffer from diabetes, hypertension and any other diseases that show health disparities," said Lewis.

Dr. Lewis is talking about data from states like Illinois, where 42 percent of the dead are African Americans, but are only 15 percent of the total population.

Miaisha Mitchell, a Frenchtown community advocate, says this is hitting families hard economically as well.

"Things are changing, so folks are finding they're in struggle mode," said Mitchell.

Numbers in Florida look quite different from hot-spot states.

In the Sunshine State, only 19 percent of African Americans make up the dead, according to the department of health.

Dr. Lewis says more accurate data could push that number lower.

"Florida only has about 32 percent of our recording of the coronavirus show race," said Lewis. "That says that we don't know where African Americans, in particular, where the hot spots are, what the zip codes are for African Americans."

Both Lewis and Mitchell say they don't see this pandemic ending anytime soon.

They are hoping community leaders will come together to find solutions for the African American community in Leon County.

Dr. Lewis recommends community health centers for those without insurance, or with low-incomes, to get tested to continue getting data in the black community.