Fauci says the coronavirus is 'shining a bright light' on 'unacceptable' health disparities for African Americans

    April 7, 2020  |  The original story can be found on the Business Insider website.

    • Dr. Anthony Fauci struck an emotional tone at Tuesday's White House coronavirus press briefing when discussing the disproportionate COVID-19 death toll facing African Americans in some places.

    • "And the reason I want to bring it up, because I couldn't help sitting there reflecting on how sometimes when you're in the middle of a crisis, like we are now with the coronavirus, it really does have, ultimately, shine a very bright light on some of the real weaknesses and foibles in our society," Fauci said.

    • Fauci said death rates and intensive-care intubations were higher among African Americans because of a greater prevalence of "underlying medical conditions — the diabetes, the hypertension, the obesity, the asthma."

    • Serving as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, Fauci recalled the bulk of his career's work, which has focused on HIV/AIDS.

    • "If you go back then during that period of time when there was extraordinary stigma — particularly against the gay community — and it was only when the world realized how the gay community responded to this outbreak with incredible courage and dignity and strength and activism, that I think that really changed some of the stigma against the gay community, very much so."

    Dr. Anthony Fauci took time during Tuesday's White House coronavirus press briefing to draw attention to societal problems, delving into how African Americans in some states had been harder hit by the novel coronavirus in terms of intensive-care intubations and risk of death compared with the rest of the population.

    In Chicago, more than half of all COVID-19 positive test results and 72% of recorded virus-related deaths have been among African Americans, who make up just 32% of the city's population and 15% for the state of Illinois.

    In parts of Wisconsin, the numbers have been even more disproportionate. Seventy-three percent of all COVID-19 deaths in Milwaukee County have been among black people, who make up under half of all positive test results and just 28% of the county's population.

    Fauci raised the subject after President Donald Trump left Tuesday evening's briefing halfway through.

    "And the reason I want to bring it up, because I couldn't help sitting there reflecting on how sometimes when you're in the middle of a crisis, like we are now with the coronavirus, it really does have, ultimately, shine a very bright light on some of the real weaknesses and foibles in our society," Fauci said.

    "As some of you may know, the greater proportion of my professional career has been defined by HIV/AIDS, and if you go back then during that period of time when there was extraordinary stigma — particularly against the gay community — and it was only when the world realized how the gay community responded to this outbreak with incredible courage and dignity and strength and activism, that I think that really changed some of the stigma against the gay community, very much so," Fauci added.

    "I see a similarity here because health disparities have always existed for the African American community," he said. "But here again, with the crisis, how it's shining a bright light on how unacceptable that is."

    Fauci, along with Dr. Deborah Birx, noted that there were no biological reasons African Americans were dying at higher rates from COVID-19.

    Fauci said it's not the case that African Americans were getting infected more often but rather that the prevalence of "underlying medical conditions — the diabetes, the hypertension, the obesity, the asthma" — had led to higher intensive-care admissions and death rates.

    Trump also briefly addressed the topic, saying the virus' impact has been "disproportional" but that more research needed to be done to determine why.

    Not all states count or disclose a patient's race upon hospitalization or death.

    At Gov. Andrew Cuomo's press briefing on Tuesday, his adviser Melissa DeRosa said New York officials had been contacting local coroners to determine demographic information about those dying from COVID-19.

    Fauci later told a reporter that the trend was not limited to particular cities or states.

    "The underlying reason why that is happening does not change from state to state," Fauci said.

    The disproportionate impact should be a call for broader action once the dust settles, he said earlier.

    "So when all this is over — and as we said, it will end, we will get over coronavirus — but there will still be health disparities," he said, "which we really do need to address in the African American community."

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