A Crisis Within a Crisis for African Americans

Op-ed by Dr. Johnnie Johnson

According to the CDC, about 1 in 3 people who become sick enough to be hospitalized today from the coronavirus are African Americans.  

Hospitalizations are highest in the 65 year and older population and 54% of the patients are men. The patients who are hospitalized and have complications with the virus have a wide range of underlying health conditions; including high blood pressure, obesity, lung/respiratory problems, diabetes and heart disease.

The White House denies that there is a health care disparity or a racial divide with the coronavirus pandemic (hoax).

However, the White House Task Force thinks that the underlying medical problems or conditions like diabetes, hypertension, obesity and asthma make it more likely that people of color are admitted to the ICU and can die from the complications of the virus. This type of information to the people of color in this country is confusing because we have two different opinions from our government. We need to seriously, as a country and a society, address the fundamental question on health care disparities that exist in this country.  

This country and the health care systems have been exposed for the injustices and racism that exist for our minority populations have underscored the importance for better preventive and social measures to protect the people at risk. This is a conversion that can’t be saved for another day. The Band-Aid has been ripped off! We must continue to push special interest groups in medicine, insurance companies, politics and government out of their comfort zone. They must recognize the need to make changes to the current healthcare system. 

So for now, continue social distancing, practice respiratory hygiene (cover your mouth when you cough), wear facial mask and gloves, especially when you are outside your home. Don’t make unnecessary trips and definitely stay away from people who don’t take this virus seriously. Be your own best patient advocate.

The coronavirus is basically a symptom and the real disease in the healthcare system are all the structural determinants and bias’s we have in our society that we had not addressed.

Let us face reality with the COVID-19. This virus is for real and yes it is disproportionally impacting Black communities. And we need to heighten our awareness of all the healthcare challenges that have come about during this pandemic. Let us now use our collective voices as we continue to fight for our families and our communities, especially those of color. 

Stay home, stay save, and wear your masks.

Johnny E. Johnson Jr. MD