By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent
Hope, misinformation, fear, sickness, and death — the impact of COVID-19 on Black communities took center stage during an unprecedented National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) livestream event broadcast to Facebook and YouTube, Thursday, May 28.
Five highly touted doctors discussed the effects the novel coronavirus has had on African Americans and the post-recovery long-term health and psychological impact the disease has had on many of its victims.
The event was part of the NNPA’s Coronavirus Taskforce and Resource Center where doctors Leigh-Ann Webb, MD and Ebony Jade Hilton are members.
“We’re all colleagues [at the University of Virginia (UVA)] and we are all friends and first-generation physicians, which means we are first in our families to be doctors — and some of us are first in our families with a college degree,” Dr. Webb stated.
Dr. Webb, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Virginia, moderated the distinguished panel which featured Hilton, an associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at the University of Virginia and co-founder of GoodStock Consulting, LLC.
The panel also included: Dr. Cameron Webb, hospitalist and assistant professor of medicine and director of health policy and equity at UVA; Dr. Taison Bell, an assistant professor of medicine in the divisions of infectious diseases and international health and pulmonary and critical care medicine, UVA; and Dr. Rochanda Mitchell, a second-year Maternal-Fetal Medicine fellow and the current recipient of the Peyton T. Taylor Scholarship.
“My role is mainly in the intensive care unit. I’m seeing mostly the critically ill,” Dr. Bell stated. “COVID-19 is still a really serious problem. There’s been a little bit of a change in the narrative, but people are still getting really ill.”
“A real game-changer will be a vaccine,” added Dr. Bell. “The thought is that we might have something by the fall or winter, but realistically it’ll be later than that.”
Dr. Hilton, who has long championed for the collection and reporting of racial data on the virus’ impact, said it’s important to underscore the effects COVID-19 has had on the African American community.
“When we had 50 deaths, maybe 100, I started to tweet, and I said you know where this is going to go?” Dr. Hilton reflected. “We don’t need data to say that Black and brown people die at a higher rate, but when you add a pandemic, we know what it’s going to look like.”
“For every 2,000 Black people who were alive in January, one has died,” Dr. Hilton observed. “We often talk about mortality rates, but 102,000 Americans are now gone, and that’s an underestimate of what we know to be true.”
Dr. Cameron Webb, the husband of Dr. Leigh-Ann Webb, said COVID-19 has proven an old adage: “When America gets a cold, Black people get the flu.”
“Racism is the underlying reason that we’re seeing disparities,” he noted, listing economic instability and food insecurity as major reasons why African Americans are more susceptible to the virus.
“Racism shapes our communities, and our communities shape our health outcomes,” said Dr. Cameron Webb.
Dr. Mitchell noted, research is ongoing to determine the impact of COVID-19 on pregnant women. “We are looking at pre-term labor and some second-trimester losses,” said Dr. Mitchell. “I hope the NNPA’s Coronavirus Task Force uses this platform to help elevate health literacy because that’s very important.”