Meharry physician highlights factors to COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on people of color

Coronavirus

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — For months, southeast Nashville has remained a hotspot for growing COVID-19 cases, the area has a high percentage of essential workers and several diverse immigrant communities.

News 2 spoke with a physician at Meharry Medical College about the factors that continue to fuel COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on communities of color.

“You know COVID-19 is shining a light on what we all have been knowing for years about disparities,” said Dr. Millard D. Collins, Chair of Meharry’s Family Medicine.

Collins explained that people of color, specifically Black people, are more likely to suffer from comorbidities such as hypertension and diabetes.

“They have direct effects on someone’s immunity and if you can’t mobilize your soldiers to fight this disease, then you can be susceptible to it running rampant.”

Throughout the pandemic, COVID-19 deaths from presumably healthy people of color have also been reported; those deaths are more perplexing for healthcare professionals.

Collins said those cases will require more research from the science community.

“When we hear of these 23-year-olds and 30-year-olds with no known, ‘known’ being the huge word there, preexisting conditions, it gets everyone’s attention.”

According to the latest census estimates, Black people are only 17% of Tennessee’s population but according to the latest numbers from the state, so far Black people have comprised 35% of the state’s COVID-19 deaths.

Collins said, “They’re having to choose between going to work to take care of their families or risk getting sick, so that’s what we’re dealing with, we’re dealing with lots of anxiety.”

He said he encourages people of color to find the right physician.

“I think that people have to find a healthcare provider that gives them all that they need in terms of a listening ear and compassion.”

COVID-19 in Tennessee

(This reflects what the TDH is reporting each day at 2 p.m. CST )

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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