Sick Empire: TNS’ New Podcast Tells the Stories of Black and Brown Communities Living in New York City During COVID-19

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The North Star launched its new podcast on May 26 about Black and Brown New Yorkers who are directly impacted by COVID-19.

“Sick Empire,” which was released to members on The North Star, is a podcast that focuses on giving a voice to Black and Brown communities living in New York City during the coronavirus pandemic. Branden Janese, the host of the new podcast and a staff writer at The North Star, said in a statement that she wants listeners to walk away being more aware of some of the struggles communities of color face every day during the pandemic.

“If listeners can leave each episode of 'Sick Empire' with one takeaway, I hope that it’s a finer tuned awareness towards the struggle of your neighbors. This podcast engages and represents every voice in the city,” said Janese. “I feel that 'Sick Empire' introduces stories that reroute our points of view - to a place where diversity is not a distraction, but a connection.”

As of May 26, there are 363,836 confirmed cases of COVID-19, a disease caused by the coronavirus, in the state of New York, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office. In April, the city released data that showed that Latinos and Black people living in New York City were twice as likely to catch the virus than white people.

“There are clear inequalities, clear disparities in how this disease is affecting the people of our city,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told The New York Times. “The truth is that in so many ways the negative effects of coronavirus — the pain it’s causing, the death it’s causing — tracks with other profound health care disparities that we have seen for years and decades.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated in a report about race and ethnicity that out of 580 patients who were hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19, 33 percent of hospitalized patients were Black. In New York City, the death rate among Black people was 92.3 deaths per 100,000 people.

In the first episode of “Sick Empire,” Janese spoke to essential workers in New York City about what it feels like to be working during the pandemic. These workers work various jobs: from a supermarket employee to an activist running for a congressional seat.

“I am incredibly proud to introduce our latest podcast, ‘Sick Empire,’ by our staff writer Branden Janese. When COVID-19 hit, I knew immediately that it was going to have an outsized impact on communities of color,” said The North Star CEO and Editor-in-Chief Shaun King in a statement. “Long ignored, abused and often the recipients of lesser care, I was aware that just as every disaster–both natural and man-made–has more acutely devastated Black and Brown folks, COVID-19 was going to hit us harder than any other group. I also knew that mainstream media would largely ignore our stories in this fight.”


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 188 countries. More than 5.51 million people around the world have become infected and more than 346,000 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. The U.S. now has 1.66 million confirmed cases and more than 98,000 deaths.

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. Other symptoms include chills, repeated shaking, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and new loss of taste or smell.

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.