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Total deaths in America are rising faster in Communities of color compared to Whites, according to CDC data

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, taken by (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan M. Breeden)

Almost 175,000 Americans have lost their lives to COVID-19, or COVID-related causes. New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that the number of deaths, including deaths not related to COVID-19, within minority groups is rising faster than Whites.

According to the CDC data, 215,000 more people than usual died in the U.S. during the first seven months of 2020, The Marshall Project reports. People of color make up almost 40 percent of the U.S. population, but account for more than half of the coronavirus related deaths in the country.

The Marshall Project suggested that the increase in deaths suggest that the impact of the pandemic may be deeper than we realize.

Since the first case of coronavirus hit the country in January, total weekly deaths among White Americans have increased by 9 percent. The number of weekly deaths among people of color has increased by almost 30 percent, The Marshall Project reports.

Asian American deaths are the second-highest in percent increase, with an increase of 35 percent. Hispanic Americans are the first with a 44 percent increase.

The increase in deaths among communities of color may be due to a combination of pre-existing health conditions and social determinants of health influenced by structural racism.

“Many minorities are more likely to have diabetes or high-blood pressure, respiratory conditions, and that’s why their health outcomes are worse,” Dora Hughes, professor of health policy at George Washington University said in an interview with The Commonwealth Fund, “But as people start to dive deeper… even if you correct these underlying chronic conditions, minorities are still more likely to have adverse health outcomes.”

Hughes said people need to acknowledge social determinants of health to prevent higher risk. This includes medical care, environmental influences, and more.

Health officials and studies have shown that coronavirus related deaths can be connected to pre-existing health issues or living conditions. This can include racial disparities such as higher rates of health problems from diabetes, obesity, or the lack of access to healthier foods, and lower incomes that can lead to a large family sharing a living space while increasing the risk of transmitting the virus.

In addition to lacking access to proper health care, the working lives of POC may also increase their risk of contracting the virus. People of color often work essential jobs that require them to serve on the front lines where they might be exposed to the virus.

“The toll of the pandemic shows just how pervasive structural racism is,” said Olugbenga Ajilore, senior economist at the Center for American Progress.

The Marshall project noted that the toll the pandemic has taken on the Asian American community has received “far less attention.”

Asian Americans have often been mistakenly labeled as the “model minority” in discussions of racial inequity. But the AAPI community has also disproportionately suffered because of the pandemic in comparison to Whites.

AAPI businesses saw a drop in business before shelter-in-place orders were issued throughout the country. AAPI immigrant workers living near or working in food production factories were contracting the virus at higher rates than Whites living in their communities.

ProPublica examined the strain that the Fil Am community faces during the pandemic in an article called “Similar to Times of War”: The Staggering Toll of COVID-19 on Filipino Health Care Workers.

Fil Ams make up one percent of the U.S. population. About 500,000 Fil Ams serve on the frontlines and in the health care workforce. As the number of coronavirus cases in the country surged within months, so did the number of Fil Am and other POC deaths.

Fil Am Melissa Aroy told ProPublica, “This anti-Asian racism that’s happening right now… what it makes me want to do is scream out: ‘How dare you treat us like the carriers? We are your caregivers.”

Although Asian American deaths sit at the second-highest percent increase in the country, only about half of the deaths are linked to coronavirus, reported The Marshall Project.

Health professionals say this could be linked to lower COVID-19 testing rates among Asian Americans communities. Asian Americans could also be dying from causes unrelated to COVID-19.

Dr. Namratha Kandula of Northwestern University said it is hard to examine Asian America as a whole because of the wide diversity.

“It’s not enough to clump them all together because it does not tell the whole story,” Dr. Kandula told The Marshall Project.

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