The health of America is in serious jeopardy as COVID-19 rages in various areas of the country that were not as severely affected during the initial surge in April and May. The number of US cases identified has risen to approximately 3.2 million and there have been over 134,000 deaths. People under age 45 are driving the rapid acceleration of the number of cases. The death rate is starting to tick up as they increase community spread and take the infections home to their vulnerable older relatives. African Americans represent about 25% of the fatalities although we represent only 14% of the US population. Daily USA case count records have been broken multiple times over the last week (50,000 on July 4th and 70,000 on July 10th according to NBC News). The healthcare systems in Florida, Arizona, Texas, California, and South Carolina are becoming overwhelmed. Multiple states and municipalities are backing off their opening of the economy. ICU beds are filling up in multiple states and extremely ill patients are being transferred between states. Refrigerator trucks are being used as temporary morgues, AGAIN, due to funeral homes being overwhelmed. The National Guard is being called in to assist in South Carolina hospitals. Many of our very dedicated healthcare workers are struggling with shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE), AGAIN, because the President failed to implement the Defense Production Act (DPA) during the 2-month lull in COVID cases. Testing capacity remains woefully inadequate, STILL. People are waiting in lines for 13-hours to get a COVID-19 test which will not be resulted for sometimes up to 3 weeks. We healthcare providers have been calling on the President to use the DPA to address this problem, yet many Americans can still not get a test even when one is needed. Contact tracing, which has been effectively used in other pandemics, is of minimal value because protocols and people were never put in place before the disease became out of control, AGAIN! Things are getting worse folks!
The President and those others who ignore COVID-19 to focus on the out of context economic news, preserving Confederate statues, destroying the Affordable Care Act, commuting prison sentences of felonious associates, and a political presidential campaign are doing so at the expense of more American lives. The data shows that a disproportionate share of the lives affected are people of color. People with preexisting ailments, those who live in crowded conditions, and who are uninsured are affected by COVID-19 with greater frequency. Our organization continues to call for the strengthening, not the tearing down, of the ACA. The southern states are now being affected by this current surge and notably 91% of the counties with Black populations greater than 13% are in the South. The “Color of Coronavirus Project” has been able to document the ethnicity of 91% of the COVID-19 deaths. That research reveals that Black folk are killed by COVID-19 at 2.3 times the rate of White Americans and the disparity increases to 3.8 times when it is age adjusted. To put it in more stark terms, if Blacks were killed at the same rate as Whites, we would have nearly 13,000 more African Americans alive today.
Two months ago, we asked the question “Why are they willing to accept so much Death”? Though the answer to this question remains unclear, we remain extremely concerned that our patients represent a disproportionate number of people infected. Since we posed that question it has become clear that COVID-19 can cause immediate and persisting affects even on those who do not die. Among these problems include strokes, blood clots, extremity amputations, chronic kidney and lung ailments, and involvement of other systems of the body. The President erroneously stated that 99% of people diagnosed do well. People of color are disproportionately represented among those who survive and suffer persisting problems.
As we continue to plead with the government to do more to protect people, we encourage citizens to do their parts. If you are in the vulnerable group (those with preexisting conditions) Stay HOME as much as possible. For all of us, Wash your hands (20 sec) frequently. Wear a mask when you must go away from home. Watch your distance and stay at least 6 feet from other people. Avoid indoor gatherings with people with whom you do not live as much as possible.
Clyde E. Henderson, MD
Cincinnati Medical Association