Dr. Fauci Says This May Be "The One Silver Lining" of the COVID Pandemic
The disproportionate outbreaks in Black communities are highlighting the disparities in U.S. healthcare.
It's hard if not impossible to see any good in the current coronavirus pandemic. The virus has spread like wildfire throughout the United States, with over 4.3 million stateside cases and close to 149,000 deaths. But according to Anthony Fauci, MD, we could see some positive change come out of this horrific pandemic. "Perhaps, if there's one silver lining in this outbreak—which I hope there is always some silver lining in everything that's as challenging as this—[it] is to focus with a laser beam on the disparities in health that we've got to change," he said in an interview with BET's Marc Lamont Hill.
While the virus has had an impact on virtually every age group and geographical area in the U.S., the rates of coronavirus in the Black community are disproportionately high. There are nearly six times as many white people as there are Black people in the United States, but the per capita rates of coronavirus in the Black community are dramatically higher. According to The New York Times' interactive coronavirus map, there are approximately 62 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 Black people in the U.S., while, among white people, that number is just 23. Only the Latinx community has higher per capita rates of transmission, with 72 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 individuals.
But, Fauci believes those shockingly disparate numbers are increasing awareness about the healthcare struggles specific to minority communities—and that could be a good thing in the long-run. According to Fauci, public awareness of the disproportionate effect of coronavirus on minority communities in hospitals and clinics is paramount when it comes to saving lives.
The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) noted that not only are Black Americans more likely to develop coronavirus, they're more likely to have a "serious outcome" from the disease. "When you know you have someone at a greater risk, you make certain medical decisions—you maybe get them in the hospital earlier," he explained.
Fauci specifically highlighted economic inequalities as major barriers to healthcare access among Black Americans, noting that the increased rates of obesity, hypertension, and diabetes in the Black community are "not genetic." "It has to do with years and years of access to the right kinds of food, access to the right kinds of healthcare," he explained.
When Lamont Hill asked if there are targeted efforts being made on a national level to ensure Black people are aware of COVID-19 symptoms and how to protect themselves, Fauci said that's the responsibility of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which, he believed, is "doing that."
But Fauci also underscored the importance of adequate Black representation in clinical trials for the coronavirus vaccine, without which, "you won't know whether it works as well in that group, or whether it's as safe or not in that group," he explained. "So we are trying now to target, to make sure that there's proper representation in an equitable way, not only in the vaccine trial, but when the vaccine gets approved… that it is accessible to the African American community, so they can get it as easily, for example, as someone in the white community." And for more on the places raising an alarm for Fauci, check out Dr. Fauci Is Most Worried About These 4 States.