Dr. Anthnony Fauci says the COVID-19 outbreak is “shining a bright light” on how “unacceptable” the health disparities between black and white communities are. The White House coronavirus task force member even went as far as to say that the coronavirus outbreak’s disproportionate death toll among black Americans reminds him of HIV/AIDS largely impacting gay people.
"Yet again, when you have a situation like the coronavirus, they are suffering disproportionately,” Fauci said of minorities. “It’s not that they are getting infected more often. It’s that when they do get infected, their underlying medical conditions ... wind them up in the ICU,” he said at a White House press conference Tuesday.
“I couldn’t help sitting there reflecting about sometimes when you’re in the middle of a crisis, like we are now with the coronavirus, it really does … ultimately shine a very bright light on some of the real weaknesses and foibles in our society. And if you go back then during that period of time when there was extraordinary stigma particularly against the gay community. And it was only when the world realized how the gay community responded to this outbreak with incredible courage and dignity and strength and activism — I think that really changed some of the stigma against the gay community. Very much so.”
Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force, said officials are working with black communities to improve messaging on the risks of the virus. “We don’t want to give the impression that the African American community is more susceptible to the virus. We don’t have any data that suggests that. What our data suggests is they are more susceptible to more difficult and severe disease and poorer outcomes,” she said.
Both Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx's comments matched those made by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio earlier in the day during a press briefing. De Blasio said people of color and people in lower-income communities, which historically have had more health problems, are getting hit disproportionately harder by the coronavirus. The city hasn’t released race data for the outbreak, but de Blasio said the city plans to do so later this week, although he warned that the data wasn’t preliminary.
“The extent of that disparity we’re still fully trying to understand. And the data we’ll give you will help us understand, but it will not be the final word, because ... it is preliminary and imperfect in the middle of a crisis,” NYC's Mayor said. “The ethnicity data in a crisis atmosphere where health care is being provided rapidly to everyone that can be reached, that’s been less of a focus.”