'Too many have already died': Leaders call on Cong

The coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately impacted minority communities across the U.S.

The CDC has yet to show a full breakdown of coronavirus cases by race and ethnicity, but a May 2020 study has shown that majority-black counties are three times more likely to have coronavirus cases and almost six times the death rate as white-majority counties. This includes both rural and urban areas.

The House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on Wednesday to address this issue and allowed leaders in these communities to air their concerns. 

Dr. James Hildreth, the president and CEO of Meharry Medical College, said that Congress needs to “act now” and ensure that aid for minorities is included in the next stimulus package.

“Too many have already died,” he said. “More are dying as we sit here, in this moment, talking and not acting. Many more will die tomorrow if we delay.”

‘We must be well-armed’

Dr. Hildreth proposed the establishment of the Consortium of Black Medical Schools (CBMS), which would consist of Meharry Medical College, Howard University College of Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Charles R. Drew Medical School, all historically black institutions. 

The CBMS would increase and expand rapid testing and contact tracing in predominantly low-income, minority communities, provide social distancing opportunities for vulnerable populations, and help these communities prepare for a potential second wave of the virus. 

According to the APM Research Lab, which is compiling data from Washington, D.C. and 40 states that have provided coronavirus data regarding race and ethnicity, the COVID-19 mortality rate for blacks is 2.4 times the rate as whites and 2.2 times as high as the rate for Asian and Latino Americans. 

Those disparities deepen in particular states, like Michigan, Kansas, Wisconsin, and D.C., where five to seven black people die from COVID-19 for every white person that dies from it. 

“Let us take our place in this fight,” Hildreth said. “We already are well-prepared and well-trained. But we must be well-armed. Please arm us.”

Hildreth’s plan would cost $5 billion over the next five years, which he described as “a sliver of the total stimulus package — 1% of 1%.” 

“This financial support is necessary to establish and implement the care strategies we have clearly articulated for saving African Americans and other disenfranchised lives, to recruit and train staff to conduct health education about the possibility of a resurge of COVID-19, and financially supporting low-resourced African American and other minority families to become healthier and be better prepared for future pandemics,” Hildreth said.