Infectious disease specialist worries about COVID-19 racial disparities


She's concerned the coronavirus is disproportionately affecting the African American and Latino communities

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(WYTV) – Concerns are rising around the United States about racial disparities in cases of COVID-19.

With COVID-19 patients coming in and out of the hospital, health officials started to recognize some common denominators.

“Obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and asthma chronic destructive lung disease,” said Dr. Dee Banks, an infectious disease specialist. “Well, who’s disproportionately affected by that? The African American and Latino community.”

With COVID-19 escalating rapidly in the U.S., Banks said health officials’ first instinct wasn’t finding out the demographics of the virus, but how they could put an end to it.

“Primarily, all we were concerned about was keeping people alive because this is a virus that had a significant mortality associated with it, not only morbidity.”

Banks said no one was prepared for this virus, which is why the processing of data was delayed.

“We were hit hard by a virus that we weren’t prepared for, the infectivity rate for this. We weren’t prepared for how infectious this was and we weren’t prepared for the prevalence.”

Several states this week collected and released data on races and ethnicities affected by the virus. The highest numbers were among African Americans and Latinos.

Banks said not only do African Americans have to worry about their health, but social issues also play a big role.

“Not a lot of us can work from home, not a lot of us can stay off work for 14 days. A lot of us don’t have jobs in the African American/Latino population where you can stay off work for 14 days and stay at home.”

Banks said she has witnessed many health challenges through her time and she believes there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

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