The Black Coronavirus Review: April 2020

Mental health is top of mind for our members, our families, and especially our friends in the health care field; helping our members both deal with the virus and its second level effects is now the top priority of the Calgary Black Chambers.

Jon Cornish

I’m not sure you’ve heard but coronavirus affects black people at a higher rate than other demographics. This isn’t saying that it’s more likely to infect black people than others when controlling for social status, it’s that the average black person is less well-off and thus more susceptible to the negative effects of this disease, both directly and indirectly. Coronavirus preys on those in society most vulnerable and, historically speaking; there are few groups more vulnerable in North America. In this article, I’ll review how black people are doing in this global pandemic.

PPE for Health Care workers

You can’t talk about black people and coronavirus without mentioning Chicago, where 72% of the COVID-19 related deaths in the city are black people, despite only making up 30% of the city’s population. As any black person can tell you, their experience with the health care system is different, where we’re told we aren’t that sick and that we have natural immunity above that of the population so we don’t have to worry about it. I’m disturbed by the story of the black security guard in a Chicago hospital, charged with overseeing the safety of the incoming patients, who was not supplied with any personal protective equipment (PPE). This person was lucky there was a black visiting doctor who had an extra mask for him to use. Overall, this is pitiful but an example of the broader issues black people in America are facing.

The USA is in dire straits, with a patchwork of varying levels of lockdown across the country and a few states still not enacting lockdown of any kind. With the amount of disinformation in the country, people are still being told that black people are immune, to the degree that Idris Elba had to come out and say that yes, black people can in fact get the disease. The States are facing a dramatic reminder of the racial divisions in the country with 42% of all the people who have passed due to coronavirus related issues being black alongside the issue of a lack of testing facilities in urban neighborhoods. Comorbidities with diabetes and other diseases that affect blacks disproportionately make coronavirus more likely to be severe however, in my mind at least, are directly connected to institutional racism and inequality that affect a black person’s access to health care, on top of the fact the health care they receive is often of less quality. This is evidenced by the simple yet astounding statistic that black women in childbirth are 2-6 times more likely to die from complications related to pregnancy than white women. With African American’s wages stagnant over the past decade, rising only 1.2% in comparison with 5% for white workers, 6.1% for Asian workers and 9.9% for Hispanics, African Americans were at risk even before this virus presented itself. Clearly the issues related to race in the states are far from being fixed. We need to stand united with our fellow Black North Americans, understanding their circumstances and providing what aid we can.

After arriving in Africa on Valentine’s Day, the development of COVID-19’s progress thankfully been slow. With most countries now able to test for coronavirus, Africa is gearing up for a fight with over 20 countries now operating with closed borders. With minimal issues thus far, you haven’t heard too much about Africa. I believe it’s only a matter of time before the continent starts to feel the real, staggering effects of this virus. While the overall case count remains low, it’s expected that Sub-Saharan Africa could enter into an economic recession for the first time in 25 years. We hope patiently that the 1.2 billion people of Africa are able to escape this but we also realize if this virus is able to take hold, it will lead to unimaginable suffering. Just as with our American brothers and sisters, we need to be there advocating for the need for international support for the countries of Africa as this proceeds.

President of Kenya revealing their first case

The black people of the Caribbean are doing much better, with low numbers and contact tracing keeping those numbers low. The Caribbean nations are working to provide respirators and PPE to Canada while they hold this advantage. Much love to our culture on the warm islands around the world!

The new normal

Luckily, we black folk here in Canada are experiencing this virus very differently than our brethren across the globe. With fewer racial disparities in our health care system, we have the benefit of knowing, for the most part, if we head to the emergency room we will be taken care of. Still, our CBC members in the health care field are struggling with long hours and uncertainty of their compensation for taking such risks. The double whammy of coronavirus and government cuts to health care has created a situation where our doctors, nurses and hospital staff are left without certainty to their financial future and the health of them and their families. Mental health is top of mind for our members, family, and friends in the health care field so helping our members and community deal with the virus and its second level effects is now the top priority of the Calgary Black Chambers.

Fundamentally, we are a mentorship based organization. We’re a group dedicated to supporting and developing the next generation of black leaders in Calgary. What business do we have helping fight a virus? One of our core values is advocacy and this is exactly what we need right now. The CBC is currently working to provide a voice for those in our health care system, to give them support, to give them the care they give to others. We need to be the listening ear and we need to speak up when they are in need. Please, reach out to the people in medicine that you know and thank them. Tell them how much we appreciate what they’re going through right now and that if they need anything, you’re there for them. Additionally, please continue your participation and support of the CBC as we work to advocate for and support the needs of our health care professionals.

While we can’t meet in person, connecting is more important than ever

While we are limited by the lockdown in effect across the province, the CBC is working to provide our students with needed support. With a large number of international students here in Calgary, we are putting together care packages to make sure their isolation isn’t quite so bad. We’re working with people across the city in order to make this happen. While coronavirus is undoubtedly a world-changing event, this hasn’t changed our mission to support the next generation. While everyone is working just to get by, please remember that anything you do, calling someone, sending an email, facetiming, helps; please do what you can to help support others in our community and we’ll get through this, together.

Thank you and stay healthy!

Jon Cornish

References:

Coronavirus and Black People

Black Coronavirus deaths

Black health childbirth issues

Coronavirus & Africa

Africa must not be neglected in Coronavirus Pandemic

Africa Coronavirus Wiki