CORAL SPRINGS, FL - As the coronavirus spreads across Coral Springs, Broward County, and the rest of the nation, it is infecting and killing African-Americans at a disproportionately high rate.
Based on data, African-Americans have accounted for as many as 40 percent of all coronavirus-deaths in big cities and urban areas including Chicago, New Orleans and Washington, D.C.
That’s unfortunate, painful, and unacceptable, especially as we are mourning the more than 100,000 people who have died of coronavirus, many of them working poor African-Americans.
We don’t want South Florida to have the same problem.
One way to reverse this is to open up more coronavirus testing sites in African-American neighborhoods – like the kind Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other state officials and agencies opened in April at the Urban League at 560 Northwest 27th Avenue in Fort Lauderdale and at Mitchell Moore Park at 901 Northwest 10th Street in Pompano Beach.
More than 180 people visit the testing site at our building each day, and we’re hoping the location can stay open through the summer.
(Coral Springs has a walk-up coronavirus testing site at Mullins Hall in Mullins Park at 10150 NW 29th St.)
These walk-up testing locations are slowing – and hopefully ending – the spread of coronavirus in our communities. In neighborhoods where the Urban League of Broward County is located, people can now easily walk up to the testing site. They don’t have to rely on cars or public buses to get here. It’s convenient and effective.
Testing is one way to reduce the spread of coronavirus. The other way is education and awareness – teaching people to wash their hands regularly, practice social distancing, and simply stay home until it’s safe to gather again.
My organization, along with six other Urban Leagues affiliates across Florida, are working together to get the word out in African-American neighborhoods where tens of thousands of vulnerable people are at-risk of getting infected. We’re also educating them about the importance of getting tested, and not ignoring symptoms of the virus. And we’ve dispelled rumors that African-Americans are immune to the disease.
There’s clear reasons why so many African-American have gotten sick from coronavirus. It’s got a lot to do with the fact that many African-Americans work in service sector jobs where they have a lot more contact with other people. It’s also got a lot to do with African-Americans having higher rates of underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension and sickle cell anemia, and being the casualties of disparities in the health system.
And it’s got a lot to do with African-Americans lacking economic resources in their communities. A recent NBC News report found nearly 12 percent of the U.S. population lived in poverty in 2018, but the figures were nearly 21 percent for African Americans, which means minority populations are less likely to have access to healthy food and live healthy lifestyles.
Add all of that up, and it tell us: African-Americans are more likely to get sick because of the way we live, work and go about our daily lives.
As we confront the coronavirus, our community has to work harder to protect our economy from sliding into a deep recession. We need to make sure employers have access to government assistance to keep their businesses flowing right now. These programs, though, need to be easily available to all, including African-Americans and other minorities who have traditionally struggled to get loans, even during good economic times.
As we know, coronavirus does not discriminate. Race, income or age do not matter to the virus.
And so, our local, state and national leaders have to speed up testing, expand education, and focus on assistance programs as we race against time to prevent the coronavirus from spreading deeper into communities of color.
Germaine Smith-Baugh, Ed.D. is president and CEO of Urban League of Broward County.