UAB School of Medicine Dean: African Americans disproportionately impacted by COVID-19

Disparity in deaths by race

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - New numbers in from the Alabama Department of Public Health are giving us a better understanding of who is being infected by COVID-19 and who is dying from the virus in our state.

We spoke with Dr. Selwyn Vickers, the Senior Vice President of Medicine at UAB and the Dean of the School of Medicine Tuesday.

Dr. Vickers said African Americans are being disproportionately impacted by the virus here and around the country.

He’s concerned because in multiple areas across the country, African Americans are disproportionately the highest number of positive cases by race, and disproportionately the highest numbers of deaths.

For instance, the Louisiana Department of Health shows 70 percent of COVID-19 deaths are African Americans. But based on the U.S. Census, African Americans made up less than 33 percent of the population in the state.

Here in Alabama, ADPH numbers show African Americans do not make up the highest percentage of those infected with the virus, but African American people and white people are tied for the highest percentage of COVID-19 deaths.

New COVID-19 patient demographic data is being released by the ADPH.
New COVID-19 patient demographic data is being released by the ADPH. (Source: ADPH)
New COVID-19 patient demographic data is being released by the ADPH.
New COVID-19 patient demographic data is being released by the ADPH. (Source: ADPH)

Dr. Vickers said in the deep south, African Americans disproportionately have underlying health issues like cardiac disease and diabetes, but that’s not the sole reason for the disparity in deaths.

“A system that has significant points of weakness, a crisis will magnify those. Our weakness in our healthcare system was the disparities that really existed among our rural and minority populations,” said Dr. Vickers.

He said more access to care needs to be provided, not just during a crisis.

He said communication is also key---making sure crucial information is not only delivered, but also heard.

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