Disproportionate numbers appearing in African American COVID-19 cases in Virginia; doctor explains

Posted at 8:46 PM, Apr 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-10 23:32:02-04

NORFOLK, Va. - “If you’re having symptoms, don’t play with it. Go get it looked at,” said Dr. Nicole Donaldson.

This is Dr. Donaldson’s plea. She cares for the community at Fort Norfolk Medical, where she says African Americans are the majority of her patients.

This is also the population getting hit the hardest with COVID-19 across the country.

“We are seeing racial disparities in places like New Orleans and New York, and we must be able to measure this here in Virginia,” said Governor Ralph Northam.

Here is a racial breakdown: As of Friday morning, there are more than 4,500 cases of COVID-19 in the state. About 1,200 of those cases are white, 692 are black and almost 400 are of another race. Race was not reported in almost half of the total number of cases, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Gov. Northam says, “It is my understanding that private testing labs and some other private partners are not currently reporting this data.”

African Americans make up about 30% of the total number of reported positive cases in Virginia. That number is more than the average number of African Americans in the state, which 20%.

Dr. Donaldson this doesn’t surprise her because African Americans are at higher risk for several reasons.

“Some of it is transportation some of it is the ability to live well, eat well,” she adds.

Underlying health conditions are also a factor.

“If you have diabetes and it’s poorly controlled; if you have heart disease.”

Donaldson says there is a distrust between minority communities and the health care system that keeps people from seeking medical help.

“There are so many factors that play a role in this, and we fail if we choose to ignore that, those issues exists.”

She believes it’s time for patients to advocate for themselves if something doesn’t feel right – even if you get pushback.

Right now, Gov. Northam says his office is working to track down the number of African American deaths caused by the coronavirus. Right now, that information is not available.

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