The global pandemic of COVID-19, otherwise known as the coronavirus, has created a public crisis in countries around the globe. The U.S. has now become overwhelmed by the virus with major cities such as San Francisco and New York giving mandatory stay-at-home orders, closing all businesses that are deemed nonessential to limit interactions between people. The healthcare system has become consumed with hundreds of cases overnight and now some professionals believe that some patients are not getting the attention they deserve.
Some doctors fear that many African Americans may not be receiving access to testing for the coronavirus stemming from deep-seated inequities that disproportionately affect the community such as lack of paid sick leave and adequate health insurance, income disparities, and access to medical facilities.
“I don’t want to speak about black Americans as if we’re all the same, but there’s a lot of reasons not to trust the government to be fair in circumstances like these,” said Dr. Cameron Webb, who is running for Congress in Virginia to BuzzFeed News. “Yes, that’s a huge question, who has access to those tests … If you’re not an NBA player, it might be a little harder for black people to get access to those tests.”
One of the ways doctors are screening patients is by looking for apparent symptoms such as dry coughing and a sore throat, which may deepen implicit biases that already exist within the healthcare system toward African Americans where the level of care is not equal to that of white patients. Many are calling for the data being gathered to be broken down by race and ethnicity in addition to age and gender.
“We know in the U.S. that there are great discrepancies in not only the diagnosis but the treatment that African Americans and other minorities are afforded. So I want to make sure that in this pandemic, that black and brown people are treated in the same way and that these tests are made available in the same pattern as for white people,” said Dr. Ebony Hilton, an associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at the University of Virginia.