SHAUN KING: Why the Coronavirus Is Hitting Predominantly Black Zip Codes Super Hard

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I knew this was coming.

As the racial, demographic, and geographic data starts to come in on the coronavirus, we’re learning that predominantly Black zip codes and communities are being crushed by COVID-19 right now. It’s not that this is surprising — because our communities often have the highest rates of asthma, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and so much more. But it is both disappointing and frightening.

Right now, most states either are not collecting racial data on the coronavirus or are refusing to release it, but it’s starting to come in — and it’s disturbing.

In Michigan, where African Americans represent just 14% of the total population, they represent over 40% of all coronavirus related deaths. This is a staggering amount of inequity. In Detroit, the head of the homicide division of their police department, a Black man, died from the coronavirus. The commander of their jail, also a Black man, died. The Chief of Police is also sick.

In my hometown of Brooklyn, when we study the zip codes, it’s no different. And it’s not because Black people have a genetic disposition for the virus — that’s racist and dumb — it really gets down to a convergence of institutional racism, systemic bias, housing, and economics.

African American communities, by design and function, are consistently the most crowded in the country. Of course, this makes social distancing difficult. Furthermore, African Americans, in New York and beyond, consistently rely on public transportation, do not have jobs that allow us to work from home, and have one of the most strained relationships with the American healthcare system of any ethnic group in the country.

When I say most strained, that’s an understatement. African Americans have a deep, ugly history of mistreatment and abuse from the American healthcare system that cannot be understated right now. From cruel, deadly experiments to downright neglect, this historical abuse has created an inter-generational skepticism of the system that lasts to this day. Not only that, but African Americans are routinely underinsured and uninsured, and don’t always have the extra income for co-pays, prescriptions, and deductibles required of our system. I am beating a dead horse here, but the United States is the only major developed country in the world that even has deductibles and monthly premiums. It’s a scam — and it preys on communities of color the most.

So here we are.

As the coronavirus continues to spread across the country, my full expectation is that it is going to continue to hit Black communities and Black people hard. Please, my people, my people, be safe. I love you. We need you.


At the end of each story we publish about the coronavirus, we are now sharing the following information:

Coronavirus 411

Coronavirus, officially named SARS-CoV-2 but also known as COVID-19, is a novel virus that causes a number of respiratory illnesses, including lung lesions and pneumonia. The virus spreads easily from person to person through the air when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes.

COVID-19, which originated in Wuhan, China, has spread to some 181 countries. More than 1,033,000 people around the world have become infected and more than 54,000 people have died. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic. President Donald Trump declared the COVID-19 outbreak a national emergency on March 13. Less than two weeks later, on March 26, the United States surpassed China in the number of COVID-19 cases.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can take between two to 14 days to appear. The CDC recommends calling your doctor if you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop symptoms, including fever, cough and difficulty breathing. If you also experience persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse and bluish lips or face, seek medical attention immediately.

In order to keep yourself and others safe, be sure to wash your hands frequently, practice social distancing and avoid touching your face. The CDC is recommending that gatherings of 50 people or more be canceled for the next eight weeks. Click here for information on how to prepare for a quarantine.