Metro gathering data on race, ethnicity of positive COVID-19 patients

Coronavirus

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Metro leaders are addressing the nationwide topic of COVID-19 having a disproportionate impact on African-Americans.

In other parts of the country, African-Americans are being hit disproportionately hard by COVID-19 due to underlying health issues. In Chicago, African-Americans accounted for more than half of those who tested positive and 72% of COVID-19-related deaths, although they make up less than a third of Chicago’s population.

African-Americans accounted for 5 of the 12 deaths in Davidson County, but Metro leaders said that’s a really low number to use for seeing if there’s a trend. According to the U.S. Census, African Americans make up roughly 27% of Davidson County’s population.

“It should not be a surprise to anyone in the United States of America that poor folks and African Americans, and even whites who live in certain zip codes would have a much more severe disease burden with COVID-19 than others might,” said Dr. James Hildreth, President of Meharry Medical College.

Metro leaders said African Americans historically have higher rates of underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and asthma, which makes them part of the vulnerable population that’s more susceptible to being severely impacted by COVID-19.

Dr. Alex Jahangir, Chair of the Metro Board of Health and Metro Coronavirus Task Force said they are working to gather data on the racial and ethnic makeup of people testing positive for the virus.

“When one receives the test the information that’s typically collected is ethnicity, name, age, contact information and race has not historically been a part of that, nor are underlying medical conditions part of the initial form,” said Dr. Jahangir. “Out of the people that are positive, the Metro Health Department then calls each person individually. There’s a whole process that our epidemiologist are conducting. We’re ramping up our epidemiologists. Occupation, race, things like that are being collected when the phone call is made. What I’m asking as chair of the board is let’s tabulate that better. Let’s report that more regularly.”

He said of the 104 people who tested positive for the virus and admitted to the hospital, 49 were white, 12 were African-American, and 43 were still unknown.

“We can’t really understand what is happening without data. For example, I’ve heard people say African-Americans are more susceptible to the virus. That is not correct,” said Dr. Hildreth. “Susceptibility is determined by the receptors to the virus and as far as we know those are evenly distributed against population groups. What African Americans are more susceptible to is more severe disease, not to the virus.”

Metro leaders said there are no limitations on who can get tested or treated in Davidson County.

“Being focused on the vulnerable population is very important,” said Mayor John Cooper. “That’s one of the reasons the assessments are free. Also, I believe it’s the national policy, as well as state policy, and our local policy – the treatment of COVID-19 is also going to be free.  So there’s no barrier to being treated.”

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

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