Biden Calls for Racial Breakdown of Coronavirus Cases, Deaths to Determine Resource Allocation

In a statement released via Medium, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden blamed structural racism for the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus epidemic on the black community.

He also joined Democratic colleagues in asking the Centers for Disease Control and other agencies to release detailed data on how the epidemic has affected communities of different ages, races and incomes.

"This pandemic is shining a light on so many inequities in our society—the lack of paid sick leave for workers, the need for stronger unemployment insurance, the necessity for a livable minimum wage," Biden wrote. "Unsurprisingly, it's also amplifying the structural racism that is built into so much of our daily lives, our institutions, our laws, and our communities."

He then cited data analysis from The Washington Post indicating that counties with majority-black populations experience coronavirus infection rates three times higher and death rates nearly six times higher than counties with mostly white residents.

African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans are less likely to have health insurance, access to health care and are "more likely to have underlying conditions, like asthma and diabetes, that make them more vulnerable to this virus," he wrote.

Additionally, these communities are more likely to live in areas with air pollution and are less likely to have access to jobs they can work from home, putting them at greater risk of publicly contracting the virus.

Mandel NGAN
Democratic presidential hopeful former US vice president Joe Biden takes part in the 11th Democratic Party 2020 presidential debate in a CNN Washington Bureau studio in Washington, DC on March 15, 2020. MANDEL NGAN/Getty

Biden wrote that he has joined Democratic colleagues like Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Rep. Robin Kelly of Illinois and others in asking the CDC and other agencies to release detailed data on how COVID-19 impacts different communities based on age, income and race.

This way, "we can focus resources on where help is needed first and fastest."

"This virus can hit anyone, anywhere—regardless of race, economic status, or access to power," Biden wrote. "But it doesn't impact every community equally. It hits hardest those who are most vulnerable and who have the fewest resources... We can do better for all our people. We have to."

Akilah Johnson, a narrative health care reporter at ProPublica, recently said that low rates of home and car ownership may also account for higher rates of coronavirus infection among African Americans. Johnson also believes more African Americans may be employed as essential workers in supermarkets, transportation and government offices, leaving them exposed to potential contagion on a regular basis.

The Pew Research Center also found that African Americans are more likely to live in multi-generational homes where elderly people who are more susceptible to the virus live alongside their younger relatives who may be carriers.

Hedwig Lee, a Washington University sociology professor who studies racial disparities in health, said that economic stress and societal racism can also weaken African Americans' immune systems, making it harder for them to recover from an illness.

Johnson fears that racial data on coronavirus could be used to demonize black people as making poor health choices or having physiological differences that make them more susceptible to coronavirus infection and death.

In Tuesday's White House coronavirus briefing, U.S. President Donald Trump wondered aloud why African Americans are disproportionately affected by coronavirus. "We want to find the reason to it," Trump said.