Medical Racism During the COVID-19 Pandemic
May 10, 2020 ⋅ 6:30 P.M ⋅ Nisha Joseph ⋅ Editor: Guadalupe Sandoval⋅
The Coronavirus Pandemic has unquestionably affected underserved communities. Early data, which was initially limited, shows that underserved communities are not receiving adequate healthcare. Information regarding healthcare inequalities and how most pervasive disparities disproportionate COVID-19 cases and rates of death are observed among African American and Hispanic/Latino individuals.
"If all Americans had died of COVID-19 at the same rate as White Americans, at least 17,000 Black Americans, 3,000 Latino Americans and 500 Indigenous and 50 Pacific Islanders Americans would still be alive." (APM Research Lab, May 2020 )
But this number has since been expanding as the pandemic is still prevalent in America. The data on racial/ethnic disparities in COVID-19 shows that COVID-19 disproportionately affects certain communities — African Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, Asian Americans, American Indians/Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders. This is no surprise, considering that healthcare disparities have always been prevalent in underserved communities. However, the pandemic is shining a bright light on persistent, systemic inequities with healthcare in this country. Unequal access to economic opportunities and healthcare facilities, structural inequality, bias, and discrimination are just some systemic hurdles many communities face.
Data from pre-COVID-19 has supported this claim that adult patients and pediatric patients have been turned away from emergency departments due to explicit biases in medicine. This explicit bias is not only harming Black and Brown people's overall health, the explicit bias in medicine is killing Black and Brown. COVID-19 just has further solidified the claim of how there are inequalities in healthcare delivery for Black and Brown community members who also happen to be from underserved communities. To address this issue of community members dying after being turned away at the emergency department and having COVID-19 like symptoms is not only astonishing but it is an issue that is prevalent in America with many resources to help community members thrive.
I would like to shed light on a story about Kimora “Kimmie” Lynum who is a 9-year-old girl with no known underlying health conditions and was the youngest person to die from coronavirus complications in Florida. Kimora Lynum died on July 18, 2020. I would like to reiterate that Kimora had no pre-existing health issues and her mother took her to the hospital solely due to her daughter having a high fever.
You would think that a patient with a fever, during a time of a pandemic would be enough for medical professionals to address this patient with diligence and precaution, however that was not the case.
The pediatric patient had a fever of 103 degrees and started feeling unwell on July 11th. Instead, she was sent home and nothing was thought of regarding the fever, the family ran errands and Kimora decided to take a nap, according to the pediatric patient mother her daughter never woke back up. In closing, we must hold the health care system accountable for delivering equitable care for Black and Brown people during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond COVID-19.
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (English and Spanish), National Alliance for Hispanic Health
Federal Response to Indian Country: COVID-19, Indian Health Service
COVID-19 and Equity, American Public Health Association
COVID-19: Update and Impact on African American and Vulnerable Populations (webinar), Society for Public Health Education
About the Author
Nisha Joseph is an undergraduate student at University of California - Los Angeles.