Since the start of COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus outbreak, many cities have been struggling to provide healthcare to their most vulnerable communities. Over the past couple of weeks, many major cities such as Milwaukee and Chicago have seen a spike in cases among their African American population. In viral epicenters of New Orleans, black residents account for 70% of new cases. Now Kansas City is the latest city experiencing a surge in new coronavirus cases.
Officials in the health department of Kansas City, Missouri, are saying black residents now make up 50% of new cases despite only comprising 30% of the city’s population. In Johnson County, 13% of the people testing positive are black, while only about 5% of the population is black, according to local health officials. In Wyandotte County, the coronavirus has already ravaged predominantly black church congregations causing many to be hospitalized.
“African Americans are overrepresented in low-wage, front-line jobs,” Gwen Grant, CEO and president of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City told the Kansas City Star. “Our people are disproportionately struggling with chronic illnesses that place them at greater risk of contracting, and dying from, the coronavirus.”
A big reason for the spike in new cases is the lack of trust in the community toward the medical field along with conspiracy theories that had floated around the internet. “Some didn’t believe it was a serious threat,” said the Rev. Emanuel Cleaver III, senior pastor at St. James United Methodist Church, one of the area’s largest predominantly black churches.
Kansas City’s mayor Quinton Lucas believes what is happening is a culmination of things that all contributed to the disparities. “What we are seeing is a representation of every inequality that we have in our community,” Lucas said. “In this situation I fear that as time goes on this crisis seems to have impacted a number of communities including communities of color and we wouldn’t have the health infrastructure to support them.”