Why are black Americans disproportionately affected by COVID-19?

Health professionals are very worried about the access to care for people of color as well as how they are treated by health care workers as COVID-19 cases increase in Minnesota.

In Minnesota, the situation is slightly better than other states but still far from equal.

"Injustice in the health care is the most shocking and inhumane and we didn’t take heed to that warning," said NAACP President Leslie Redmond. "And that’s exactly what we are seeing right now, why the African American community is being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 is because of institutionalized racism.”

Redmond is worried about how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting her community. In other major cities across the country, African Americans are dying at an alarming rate from COVID-19.

In Minnesota, the picture is slightly better. Recent data shows whites are about 84 percent of the population, 73 percent of the coronavirus cases, and 88 percent of the deaths.

Minorities are a disproportionate number of cases, however, the death rates are not as high.

"It’s during pandemics, like this, these really get highlighted in very real, sobering ways," said Dr. Mark Steffen. "And it’s disappointing to say the least.”

Dr. Steffen is the chief medical officer at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. They have at least 300 clinicians working with people in underserved communities in the area.

Lack of access to health care, unfair treatment by health care workers, and underlying health conditions are some of the major reasons behind the disparities.

"We’ve really set up a system that revolves around the traditional populations that have existed within our state, within the nation and that demographic has shifted rapidly and our health care system needs to change and shift rapidly with that," said Dr. Steffen.

African Americans and other minority groups are also less likely to be able to work from home and rely on public transit. Community leaders say they need better resources to adapt to our changing society.

"We live in food deserts, our community doesn’t have access to a number of things that we need," concluded Redmond.