Coronavirus disproportionately hitting blacks and Latinos

It is both a shocking but also utterly predictable new chapter in the unfolding coronavirus saga. The pandemic sweeping the country appears to be exacting a particularly high toll in black and Latino communities, where both infection rates and deaths appear to be far out of proportion to the groups’ share of the overall population.

A Washington Post analysis says counties that have a majority-black population are experiencing three times the rate of coronavirus infection and six times the death rate of counties with majority-white makeups. In Michigan, which has the third highest number of coronavirus deaths, with 845, blacks account for 33 percent of all cases and about 40 percent of deaths, despite making up only 14 percent of the state’s population.

Higher death rates are being attributed, at least in part, to higher prevalence among blacks of conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and lung disease — all conditions that put patients at greater risk once they’ve contracted coronavirus.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who is only 45, offered poignant first-hand testimony to that issue yesterday, saying he is “prediabetic” and suffers from a heart condition and asthma. “So I represent that legacy of growing up poor and black in America,” he said.

In Massachusetts, where calls are growing for state officials to release coronavirus data by race, something not currently being done, Latinos account for a far higher share of COVID-19 patients at Massachusetts General Hospital than their usual makeup in the hospital’s patient population. Meanwhile, Boston neighborhoods with high populations of blacks and Latinos — Hyde Park, Mattapan, and East Boston — are experiencing the city’s highest rates of coronavirus.

As troubling as the patterns are, they are exactly what public health officials have been warning about.

“We cannot have a conversation about coronavirus without talking about those who are bearing most of the brunt of its consequences,” Dr. Sandro Galea, dean of the Boston University School of Public Health, said more than two weeks ago on the Codcast. “We have a country that is best described as having health haves and health have-nots, and the health have-nots, which are, depending on how you count, the poorest 50 percent or the poorest 80 percent of the population, are going to also suffer most of the consequences of this, of the coronavirus and the approaches to mitigate it.”

Galea is co-chair of a statewide coalition dubbed the Emergency Task Force on Coronavirus and Equity, which issued four urgent recommendations last month of steps the state should take, including a ban on evictions and foreclosures and measures to ensure that those infected have access to safe quarantine housing. Earlier this week, the task force weighed in again, saying the state is falling short.

The Globe’s Marcela García has a gripping account today of how coronavirus is rampaging through Chelsea. Although municipal data across the state are limited, García says the small, heavily Latino city sandwiched against Boston’s northern border has the highest COVID-19 rate in the state, nearly 79 cases per 10,000 residents.

“Deep crises reveal our societal fault lines, and nowhere is that more clear than in Chelsea,” she writes.

García describes a host of factors at play, including lack of attention to social distancing, lack of access to health care, and the preponderance of jobs among low-wage workers that can’t be done while isolating at home.

Gladys Vega, director of a Chelsea social service nonprofit, told García that a young undocumented immigrant who recently had a postive coronavirus test showed up at the agency last Friday to get food. Vega chided her for coming in, saying she should have remained at home and telephoned for a delivery of food given her infection status. She then told the woman it was imperative she tell the eight people she shares a three-bedroom apartment with that she is infected with coronavirus.

Vega said the woman called the next day to say she had been kicked out of the apartment.



As deaths mount across the state (up 37 percent on Tuesday), questions are being raised about disparities among counties. Some of those disparities are being traced to outbreaks of coronavirus at nursing homes. (CommonWealth)

Gov. Charlie Baker is funneling $800 million to health care providers, including $400 million to safety-net hospitals and $80 million to long-term care facilities. (CommonWealth) Baker also imposes capacity limits on grocery stores (State House News Service) and lets construction continue, despite demands by construction unions for a moratorium. (MassLive)

Baker’s reasoning on marijuana is incomprehensible, says Ellen Rosenfeld of CommCan. (CommonWealth)

Reps. Angelo Scaccia of Hyde Park and Harold Naughton of Clinton, both veteran lawmakers, are leaving the Legislature. Scaccia is the longest-serving member of the House. (State House News)

Virus notes: State House budget roundtable tripped up by livestream failure….Lottery sales are tanking….Getting close on unemployment insurance for workers in the gig economy. (CommonWealth)


About a third of the 600 to 700 homeless people in Boston who have been tested for coronavirus are positive, though the city says there are not yet any deaths among the population. (Boston Globe)

Some communities are choosing not to release information on confirmed coronavirus cases. There are at least four in metrowest — Mendon, Franklin, Millis, and Upton. (MetroWest Daily News)

Some towns are struggling technologically with holding virtual meetings. (The Salem News)

Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi is readying his first responder recovery center to accept infected guests. (MassLive)

Five residents of the Alliance Health at West Acres nursing home in Brockton have died after contracting the coronavirus, according to Alliance Health and Human Services, which operates the facility. (Brockton Enterprise)


President Trump says he will release data about the disproportionate impact coronavirus is having on the black community. (MassLive)

Non-English speakers are really isolated during a pandemic. (WBUR)

Employees at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home say they were told to report to work if they had COVID-19 but were asymptomatic. (WBUR)

With Holy Week and Passover coming amid the coronavirus outbreak, houses of worship are having to adapt. (The Salem News)

Protecting the public creates more demand for masks. (Gloucester Daily Times)

Coronavirus brings new realities to parents not living together and their kids (Standard-Times) 


Sen. Ed Markey is short at least 3,000 nominating signatures needed to appear on the September Democratic primary ballot, with a May 5 deadline looming and the campaign now resorting to mailing nomination forms to voters to sign and send back. (Boston Globe)

Markey and Jane Fonda said there are lessons for climate change that can be learned from the COVID-19 response. (State House News Service)


Grocery store workers demand more pay and protection. (WBUR) Vitalina Williams, 59, a worker at the Salem Market Basket, dies of COVID-19. (The Salem News)

TJX Cos., the owner of TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods stores, is furloughing all of its hourly workers. (MetroWest Daily News)


Sixty-three respiratory therapists, urgently needed by hospitals to operate ventilators, are about to graduate in Massachusetts. (WGBH)


State officials offer “guidance” to hospitals on how to prioritize allotment of ventilators should shortages arise, recommending preference for those with a better prognosis and health care workers. (Boston Globe)

Nearly half the beds at Boston Medical Center are now taken by coronavirus patients. (Boston Globe)

Alexa Kimball, the CEO of Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians at Beth Israel Deaconess, says we’re prepared for the surge. (CommonWealth)

Eastham officials endorse a $132 million Nauset Regional High School renovation project (Cape Cod Times)


Media critic Dan Kennedy takes a look at why “Tiger King” resonates in the age of pandemic. (Media Nation)

Plymouth’s first poet laureate, Stephan Delbos, starts his tenure with a poetry contest. (Patriot Ledger)


Suffolk DA Rachael Rollins, who has faced heat from law-and-order types for her progressive agenda, is seeking an emergency order from the Supreme Judicial Court to have a defendant brought back into custody who is facing trial for second-degree murder but was let out by a judge to await trial because court sessions have been postponed due to coronavirus. (Boston Herald) WBUR also has a report.

Some ICE detainees are released by a judge because of coronavirus concerns, and the Bristol County sheriff isn’t happy about it. (Boston Herald)

Former Fall River mayor Jasiel Correia II’s attorney asked producers to hold off on “Run This City” documentary out of concern about it coming out before his trial. (Herald News)


John Prine, whose piercing but plainspoken lyrics drew praise from Bob Dylan and were made famous by Bonnie Raitt, died Tuesday of coronavirus at age 73. (New York Times)