by Glen Ellis, For New Pittsburgh Courier
(TriceEdneyWire.com)—Don’t you already know everything you need to know about coronavirus? What else is there for you to know that you haven’t already heard, you ask?
Every media outlet we turn on and everything we read in the papers inundates us with information about this rapidly evolving coronavirus crisis. On top of that, our “friends” are showing how smart they are by rushing to post every single natural/miracle cure, conspiracy theory, and prediction on the end of the human race. Even people I have known for years have all of sudden become epidemiologists; medical doctors; scientists; and researchers! Regrettably, we have been done a disservice by both the media, as well as our well-intentioned friends. In spite of the best intentions, these new “experts” promote beliefs and folk remedies that could result in dangers equally as bad as coronavirus infection.
During this unprecedented disruption brought to all of our lives, some people are expressing concern that information was held back from them. Folks were upset because they wanted to hear the truth; or so they thought. Instead of continuing to pass on the mounds of gross misinformation and fear-driven behaviors, we should all be only interested in the truth. Well, I’m not so sure we can handle the truth.
Let me share a few “truths” that not only have many of us heard about, but many things are specific to poor people and African Americans in this country.
Call your doctor: For millions or Black, brown, and poor people in this country, that is not an option. As of 2019, roughly 27.5 million people didn’t have health insurance at any point last year, according to figures from the Census Bureau. In addition, an analysis from the CDC and the Kaiser Foundation, 31 percent of Blacks, 47 percent of Hispanics don’t have a personal doctor! I have looked and not been able to find any data on how many people who are newly insured under Obamacare actually have a primary care doctor they can call. Get my point? This “truth” shows that a whole lot of people are left out when the CDC and other officials tell folks who are already bunkered down, that if they think they have symptoms, “don’t go to the hospital; call your doctor first”.
Stay in place: This guideline to prevent the spread of coronavirus is probably among the most baffling to me. Let’s start with the complexity of many households and families in most of the urban cities where the majority of the poor, Black, and brown people live. One of the most recent studies to look at family household composition was published in the Journal of Black Studies (2007) reported that 39 percent of African American children did not live with their biological father and 28 percent of African American children did not live with any father representative. Some families have people live with them that aren’t related. Don’t forget, the communities where marginalized populations are the places where you find homeless shelters, halfway houses, safe houses, and boarding houses. Add to that, the many seniors and “sick and shut-in” (many who live alone). The daily challenges in these scenarios means reliance on a variety of support systems in their social network (friends, families, caregivers, neighbors, etc.) as survival tools in everyday living is disrupted or no longer available.
Vulnerable populations: As defined by the World Health Organization, Vulnerability is the degree to which a population, individual or organization is unable to anticipate, cope with, resist and recover from the impacts of disasters. For purposes of the coronavirus pandemic, this includes those who have weak immune systems, elderly, chronic diseases (diabetes, heart disease, obesity), cancer and transplant patients. It has been long established that Blacks have the highest mortality rate (of all causes) and arguably the worst health status of any racial group in the United States. Now think about what we know about the significant percentage of the Black population in this country that has high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, kidney failure, heart failure, cancer, asthma, COPD, and cast of other diseases. Just doing some rough calculations, it seems like no stretch of the imagination to conclude that more than half of all Black folks in this country are a vulnerable population!
I felt it was important to write this particular column, so that we are all clear about the specific impacts of this pandemic, and how it will disproportionately impact Black, brown, and poor people in ways that others won’t be affected. Somebody has to (sadly) always look at what happens in this country, and ask the question, “how will this affect my community”.
COVID-19 (coronavirus) is real, it’s deadly; and it’s going to be with us for possibly the rest of this year.
Please continue to pay attention to the information from credible sources. Don’t become a victim to your friend who all of sudden has become a “master healer”. Stick to factual information. Always make sure that you understand, with every piece of information or official directives, seek the truth.
We know this is wreaking havoc on our families, our communities, our nation, and our world. It is the great equalizer. Just be sure to ask yourself if you can say you have thoroughly considered how this pandemic is affecting you and your family…if you can handle the truth.
Remember, I’m not a doctor. I just sound like one. Take good care of yourself and live the best life possible!
(The information included in this column is for educational purposes only. I do not dispense medical advice or prescribe the use of any technique as a replacement form of treatment for physical, mental or medical problems by your doctor either directly or indirectly.)
(Glenn Ellis is Research Bioethics Fellow at Harvard Medical School and author of “Which Doctor?” and “Information is the Best Medicine.” Ellis is an active media contributor on Health Equity and Medical Ethics.)