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New data shows COVID-19’s disparate impact on Black communities

Staff Report //July 16, 2020//

New data shows COVID-19’s disparate impact on Black communities

Staff Report //July 16, 2020//

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The novel coronavirus has affected Black communities more than other populations. (Illustration/File)

New data from state health agencies shows the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black communities in South Carolina.

A brief released by the S.C. Institute of Medicine and Public Health and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control found that while Black people account for 27% of the state’s population, they represent 49% of those hospitalized because of the coronavirus and 45% of those who have died.

The IMPH analyzed DHEC data on deaths by race in four S.C. regions. The biggest racial disparity was found in the Pee Dee region, where Black people have 2.43 times the rate of COVID-19-releated deaths as white people.

The Upstate has a death rate disparity of 2.42, the Lowcountry 2.18 and the Midlands 1.67, according to the brief (.pdf).

“COVID-19 has highlighted systematic disparities in how people of color receive care in the U.S. health system. To combat this virus, equity-focused solutions must be at the forefront,” Maya Pack, IMPH executive director, said in a news release. “We are committed to serving as an informed, nonpartisan convener. We are actively monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic and providing evidence-based analysis and updates to inform health policy decisions and improve South Carolina’s health and health care.”

Public health leaders recommend actions including continuing to increase testing throughout the state, with a focus on Black communities and communities lacking access to care. Increased access to personal protective equipment, such as masks and sanitizers, and promotion of face coverings and social distancing, with targeted messaging to vulnerable populations, are also encouraged.

DHEC has conducted outreach efforts in minority and at-risk populations through partnerships with organizations including the Commission of Minority Affairs, the S.C. Office of Rural Health, PASOS, the S.C. Department on Aging, and local housing authorities, according to the release. DHEC and community partners have hosted 443 free COVID-19 testing clinics since May, with a focus on rural, minority and underserved areas.

“The number of new positive cases each week are continuing to increase, as is the number of people currently hospitalized due to COVID-19 complications,” said Dr. Joan Duwve, DHEC public health director. “In order to interrupt the rapid spread of the virus across the state, including within the Black, Hispanic and Native American communities in South Carolina, we must all commit to wearing face masks, staying six feet apart and washing our hands often to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.”

On Wednesday, DHEC announced 1,850 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, along with five new probable cases and five new probable deaths. Those numbers brought the state’s total of confirmed cases to 62,017, probable cases to 174, confirmed deaths to 984 and probable deaths to 14.

DHEC also said that 1,560 hospital beds are currently occupied by patients who have tested positive or are under investigation for COVID-19, with 206 patients currently on ventilators.

On Sunday, DHEC confirmed South Carolina’s first cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children associated with COVID-19. Two children were diagnosed with the condition, which occurs in some children and teenagers who have contracted the virus or been in contact with an infected person. Symptoms include fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes and feeling tired, while emergency warning signs including trouble breathing, chest pain, confusion, bluish lips or face, an inability to wake or stay awake, and severe abdominal pain.

On Saturday, DHEC reported the death of a child under age 5 from the Midlands, the state’s first pediatric death associated with COVID-19.

That day also saw 2,239 new cases and a percent positive rate of 22.2%.

Since June 1, South Carolina has seen a 436.5% increase in new COVID-19 cases among the 21-30 age group.

“Our state is in a dire situation, and we will continue to mourn the loss of parents, grandparents, children, friends and neighbors until each and every one of us steps up to do what is right, not just for ourselves but for others,” Duwve said. “No one is immune to this deadly disease, but we each have the power to impact the path this pandemic takes in South Carolina. Choosing to wear a mask and maintain physical distance today will not only help change the course of the pandemic in South Carolina, it will help save the lives of those around us.”