Why is coronavirus (COVID-19) death rate so high for African Americans?

African Americans represent 41% of COVID-19 deaths in Michigan

DETROIT – Among the many statistics emerging during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis is the high number of deaths in Michigan’s African American population.

African Americans represent 41% of COVID-19 deaths in the state. The next-closest race is caucasian, at 28%.

Dr. Frank McGeorge said that’s a trend being seen around the country, as many states and regions are breaking down the numbers by race.

There’s no doubt the coronavirus pandemic has affected African Americans differently than other races, and the reasons need to be investigated.

In Michigan, 33% of cases are in African Americans. In Illinois, 29% of cases and 42% of deaths are in African Americans. In Louisiana, 70% of the people killed by COVID-19 were black despite only 32% of the state’s total population being African American.

COVID-19 is causing a higher rate of deaths in African Americans. The reason needs more analysis, but experts said African Americans are more likely to have high blood pressure and diabetes -- both risk factors that have been identified in other countries for developing more severe cases of COVID-19.

Many speculate that the coronavirus pandemic is helping to uncover health disparities that have long existed in America.

Another avenue being investigated is whether there could be genetic and physiological factors that make certain races more susceptible to SARS-CoV-2.

Everything from different numbers and types of certain receptors to the way different races might respond to the inflammation induced as COVID-19 worsens is being looked at.

Dr. McGeorge said it’s tempting to jump to the conclusion that the mortality differences are sue to healthcare disparities, but it’s just as important to sort out any other potential contributing causes to experts can figure out if there might be a specific way to correct the problem.

There’s little doubt that underlying illness plays an important role, but there could be more going on, experts said.

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