Blacks in Allegheny County account for at least 21 percent of coronavirus hospitalizations

African Americans make up 13 percent of Allegheny County population

by Rob Taylor Jr.
Courier Staff Writer

As the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise in Allegheny County, the New Pittsburgh Courier has spotted a disturbing, but not surprising trend —African Americans here are being affected at a higher rate than its county population percentage makeup.

Following an outcry in the past two weeks from Black community leaders in Pittsburgh demanding that accurate racial data on coronavirus cases in Allegheny County and Pennsylvania would begin, Allegheny County responded almost immediately with the racial data.

But because many of the early COVID-19 test results that came to the Allegheny County Health Department through the Pa. National Electronic Disease Surveillance System didn’t contain information on race, the county doesn’t have racial data on 342 positive cases in the county. However, the county was able to compile that out of the 717 cases for which race is known, 166 of the cases were African Americans, as of Tuesday, April 21.
The county was able to track the racial data more closely for those who’ve been hospitalized or died in the county from coronavirus.

As of April 21, there were 188 total hospitlizations, 15 of those were classified as “race unknown.” But for the remaining 173 hospitalizations, 39 were African Americans, 130 were Whites, three were classified as Asians and one was classified as other.

Only two African Americans had died out of the 24 total deaths in Allegheny County, according to the Health Department, as of April 13. But as the number of deaths reported took a sizable jump between April 14 and April 21, there are now at least seven African Americans in the county who’ve died from coronavirus, out of 67 total deaths (10 percent), as of Tuesday, April 21. White deaths totaled 41, and 19 deaths were classified as unknown. It’s possible that more than seven Blacks in Allegheny County have died from coronavirus due to the 19 deaths classified as “race unknown.”

African Americans compose roughly 13 percent of Allegheny County.

Moving statewide, as of Monday, April 20, there were 33,232 total positive cases of coronavirus in the state of Pennsylvania, with 1,204 total deaths. The state recently began tracking the racial data of its cases, and while there’s no racial data on 24,241 cases, the remaining 8,991 positive cases revealed that 2,878 of those were African Americans and 5,699 were Whites. Three hundred one were Asians and 113 were classified as other.
As of Monday, April 20, the state doesn’t have racial data for 660 deaths. But of the 544 deaths for which race is known, 133 were African Americans, 395 were Whites, 15 were Asians, and one was classified as other.

“It seems to be generally agreed upon that the extreme poverty rates in African American communities across the country, along with the health care disparities, high levels of diabetes, respiratory problems, hypertension, and the more crowded living conditions in many of these neighborhoods, contribute to many individuals within Black communities to be more vulnerable to attacks from the coronavirus,” read a letter signed by Tim Stevens, Chairman & CEO of The Black Political Empowerment Project, Esther L. Bush, president and CEO of The Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, Richard A. Stewart Jr., President, NAACP Pittsburgh branch, and Jasiri X, CEO/Co-Founder, 1 HOOD Media.

“These factors, which are certainly in existence throughout Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and Pennsylvania, and the reports listed above, cause us to call upon our political leaders to take this opportunity to do whatever must be done to provide statistics with regard to racial breakdown relative to the impact of coronavirus and to use this virus as another opportunity to begin to identify solutions to the ongoing disparities based on race.”

The letter, as reported in the Courier’s April 15 edition, was sent to Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and City Council members.

The New Pittsburgh Courier previously reported in its April 8 edition the vast, disproportionate figures that were revealed pertaining to Blacks and COVID-19 throughout the country, reports that are now well-documented via multiple national media outlets.

In the Courier’s April 15 edition, the data made available at the time (as of April 14) from Allegheny County saw African Americans in the county having a far less rate of coronavirus cases when compared to other metropolitian areas such as Philadelphia, Chicago, Milwaukee, New Orleans and Detroit.

However, as data continues to be compiled daily by the Allegheny County Health Department, a clearer picture begins to form as to how coronavirus is affecting African Americans in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.

With at least 166 of the 1,059 cases in the county (at least 16 percent) attributed to African Americans (as of April 21), it’s at least three percentage points higher than the 13 percent Black makeup of Allegheny County.

It’s an even higher number for hospitalizations, however, as Blacks in the county account for at least 21 percent of all hospitalizations (at least 39 African Americans out of 188 total hospitalizations).

From Black elected officials, to pastors, to family pillars, the message continues to hold firm: Stay safe, stay home, and if you must leave the home, stay at least six feet away from everyone, and wear a protective face mask.

1 HOOD MEDIA co-founder Jasiri X testifies during an Aug. 27 hearing about changing the current Pennsylvania use of force laws. (Courier File Photo)



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