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Doctor explains why COVID-19 is the 'perfect storm' to impact minority communities

In Mecklenburg County, black people account for almost half of COVID-19 cases despite only making up 33% of the population.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In cities with large black populations such as New York, Chicago, Detroit, and New Orleans,people of color are dying from COVID-19 at an alarmingly higher rate than white people.

 In Chicago, for example, black residents account for 72 % of COVID-19 deaths, but make up only half of the city's entire population. Plus, many Southern states with large black populations have held out on mandating statewide "stay home" orders that have proven to slow the spread of coronavirus. 

In North Carolina, African Americans make up 22% of the population, but account for 38% of all cases. On Wednesday, Mecklenburg County officials said close to half (44%) of COVID-19 patients are black despite the fact that black people only make up about 33% of the county's population. 

RELATED: COVID-19 is hitting the African American community in Mecklenburg County especially hard

So what's behind these discrepancies? Dr. Uche Blackstock, an ER doctor in New York says a number of factors come into play during the crisis.

"COVID-19 is the perfect storm for our black and brown communities, which are mostly low-income due to lack of access to testing, said Dr. Blackstock. “Many of them (are) still working on the front lines as essential workers or service workers."

Health experts say there are other important factors that are also putting African Americans at risk, including pre-existing health conditions such as obesity, asthma, diabetes and hypertension.

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Advocates are also worried that minorities in this country are not receiving adequate information about the virus, or access to testing.

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Mark Jerrell that there’s a history in the country of health concerns from people of color being downplayed compared to those of white people.

"There's a saying in the black community, when the country catches a cold black people catch pneumonia, said Jerrell. “ I want to make sure we continue to bring it up to the powers that be. So that it is properly addressed."

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