By Barney Blakeney
The spike in the number of reported COVID cases is frightening. More frightening, COVID 19 is spreading like wildfire through Black communities and with more devastating effect. For the week ending May 30 there were about 1,700 reported cases of the COVID virus in South Carolina. For the week ending June 27 there were over 8,000 reported cases of the virus. There have been 739 deaths related to the virus as of June 27. Though Blacks represent only about 27 percent if the state’s population, they represent some 45 percent of COVID deaths.
COVID is a monster destroying Black lives at a rate incomparable to any other epidemic experienced by Black communities. Even the rate of homicides in Black communities seems the tinkling of a bell in comparison to COVID’s death knell. Yet too many Blacks seem oblivious to its threat. Throughout Black communities gatherings continue at pre-pandemic frequencies and proportions. The upcoming Fourth of July holiday signals an opportunity for even greater disregard.
Things are going to get worse before they get better, predicts Family Medicine Specialist Dr. Thaddeus Bell. He says the resurgence of the virus can be linked to two things most apparently – public policy and public behavior. Public policy allowed the unprepared reopening of the state and public behavior is a significant factor because people aren’t taking social distancing and other precautions seriously, Bell said.
One infected person can cause the spread of the virus through large groups because when one infected individual spreads the virus to another, that individual carries it to others who continue to infect even more people. In such a way infected people carry the virus home to loved ones unknowingly, Bell said. Given that many Black families consist of multi-generational individuals living in close quarters, Black families are more at risk, Bell said.
Information is the first line of defense – get the facts, Bell said. He cautioned that Facebook is not the most reliable source of information unless the source is medically and scientifically based. “Ask your doctor,” he implores.
Social distancing can do as much as anything to halt the spread of the virus, he said. Six feet of space between individuals allows droplets from the respiratory system and saliva to fall before reaching the other person, he explained. That distance is crucial Bell said, and when individuals are close together masks become more important. Masks form a barrier protecting you from others, he said.
Politically, policymakers must address issues that make Blacks more vulnerable to the virus, Bell said. Jobs that put more Blacks in position to become infected, inadequate diets and healthcare create weaknesses the virus easily can attack, he said. A future challenge remains after the pandemic is quelled, Bell cautions. The disease has lasting effects because it weakens the body leaving vital organs more susceptible to liver and kidney disease, diabetes and strokes.
“This COVID thing is really very serious, Bell said. “We don’t have the medicine to treat it and I don’t think anybody knows where we’re going from here. We’re in new territory,” he said.