AUSTIN, Texas — As more and more Americans die from complications related to COVID-19, the doctors leading the nation's response are painting a sobering picture for black Americans. During the White House briefing on Wednesday, they said health disparities within the black community are leading to more deaths.
"They are suffering disproportionately," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "As Dr. Birx said correctly, it's not that they're getting infected more often; it's that when they do get infected, their underlying medical conditions – the diabetes, the hypertension, the obesity, the asthma – those are the kinds of things that wind them up in the ICU and ultimately give them a higher death rate."
For instance, in Chicago African-Americans make up 30% of the population but 72% percent of the deaths related to COVID-19. The State of Louisiana is reporting similar numbers. Other cities and states, including Michigan, Milwaukee and Minnesota, also report blacks are dying at higher rates.
So what about Texas? Right now, state leaders say they don't know.
The state tracks demographics on patients who test positive for the virus. But Dr. John Hellerstedt, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, said the state may not be getting the race and ethnicity of everyone who's died.
"In some cases, that is incomplete, so I don't think there's necessarily anything about mandating it. We ask for it. It's part of the reporting that we have," said Hellerstedt.
He added that once the virus is better controlled, state workers should be able to get more demographics.
But some Texas cities are reporting demographics on who's dying. The City of Houston Health Department provides demographic information on each person who has died, and the majority of those fatalities, 57%, are black residents.
Austin-Travis County reports demographics on all cases, which currently show the demographics of people who have the virus is proportional to the county's demographic makeup. But the health department isn't providing specific information on the people who died. Staff told KVUE that could change in the future.
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