At first, the coronavirus pandemic was called the great equalizer.
It seemed to be affecting people of all races, backgrounds and income levels, from Hollywood actors to NBA players to low-wage service workers.
But as more data becomes available, one thing is clear: Covid-19 has only magnified the systemic inequalities that persist in the United States. And nonwhite Americans, especially African Americans, have been hit hard on nearly every front.
Though the available data paint a grim picture, the numbers are incomplete. Much of the state and federal data on Covid-19 cases and deaths are preliminary, while race and ethnicity information isn’t even available for tens of thousands of cases. Advocacy groups have called on the federal government to release more detailed numbers, and experts and community leaders fear that the reality may be even worse.
“When white America catches a cold, black America catches pneumonia,” Steven Brown, a research associate at the Urban Institute, a Washington-based think tank, told CNN Business.
Here’s what we know about how the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting African Americans.
Dying at higher rates
African Americans are dying at disproportionately higher rates compared to all other ethnicities.
As of May 11, 17,155 black Americans are known to have died due to Covid-19, according to an analysis from the American Public Media (APM) Research Lab.
That’s out of nearly 65,000 deaths for which race and ethnicity data was available. More than 80,000 people total had lost their lives to the coronavirus at the time of the analysis.
APM compiled its data from the 39 states and the District of Columbia that are reporting the race and ethnicity of residents who have died of Covid-19.
To put those numbers into context, African Americans make up about 13% of the population in those places but 27% of Covid-19 deaths for which race and ethnicity is known, APM research shows.
By contrast, about 62% of the population in places reporting race and ethnicity is white, but white residents make up 49% of Covid-19 deaths, the research shows. Hispanics or Latinos comprise about 18% of the population and 16% of deaths. Americans of Asian descent make up about 5% of the population and 5% of deaths.
A recent study by amfAR, the AIDS research nonprofit, and a team of epidemiologists and clinicians at four universities found similar results. That study compared counties with a disproportionate number of black residents – those with a population of 13% or more – with those with lower numbers of African American residents.
Counties with higher populations of black residents accounted for 52% of coronavirus diagnoses and 58% of Covid-19 deaths nationally, according to the study.
“Social conditions, structural racism, and other factors elevate risk for COVID-19 diagnoses and deaths in black communities,” wrote the researchers from Emory University, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Mississippi and Georgetown University.
More likely to live in viral hotspots
In some cities and states, the disparities are even more glaring – and Latinos are greatly affected, too.
Black residents in Kansas are seven times more likely to die of the virus than white residents, according to the APM Research Lab analysis.
In Missouri, Wisconsin and Washington, DC, African Americans are six times more likely to die than whites, the APM analysis found, and in Michigan and, they’re five times more likely.
In Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana, New York, Oregon and South Carolina, African Americans are three times more likely to die of the virus than white residents, according to the APM analysis.
In New York City, more than 2 in 1,000 black and African American residents have died of Covid-19. More than 2 in 1,000 Hispanic and Latino residents have also died of the virus, rates that are substantially higher than those seen in the city’s white and Asian populations.
In California, Latinos are 39% of the state’s population, though they make up 52% of Covid-19 cases, according to the state’s health department.
Looking at the death rates across age groups, the impact is even starker. Latino residents make up 42% of the state’s population age 35 to 49, but they comprise nearly 72% of deaths in that age group, according to the state’s health department. For residents age 50 to 64 and 65 and older, the death rates are disproportionate as well.
In Chicago, Latinx residents make up 42% of the city’s Covid-19 cases, more than any other demographic. Hispanics are 29% of the city’s population, US Census Bureau data show.
Even for black Americans who might not have gotten infected themselves, the devastation has been personal.