CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott is calling on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to investigate emerging reports of COVID-19 disproportionately impacting communities of color.
In a letter sent to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, Scott cited “concerning reports … suggesting that COVID-19 has had a particularly harmful impact on communities of color.” Specifically, Scott noted that African Americans in Michigan comprise just 14% of the state’s population, but as of Monday, accounted for 33% of reported COVID-19 cases and 41% of COVID-19 related deaths.
Scott requested that Azar “use the tools and authorities available to the Department to identify, monitor, and analyze potential disparities in the prevalence, along with the hospitalization and mortality rates, of this disease.”
Due to “patchwork” demographic data, it is currently unclear what exactly the racial disparities are, if any.
One theory is that underlying conditions that could lead to a more difficult battle with COVID-19, such as cystic fibrosis and diabetes, are more prevalent in certain populations.
Another theory is that social determinants of health, such as access to healthcare and living conditions, could contribute to contracting, spreading and treating the disease.
In a press conference on Tuesday, President Donald Trump referenced studies indicating that COVID-19 has a disproportionate impact on African-Americans and said that his team was working to understand why.
Scott argues that understanding the disparities is crucial, because “as we develop a more robust understanding of how COVID-19 impacts different communities, as well as what underlying or associated factors may drive these differences, we can more effectively address the needs at hand and more aggressively combat this terrible disease.”