Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

The coronavirus’ disproportionate impact on black and Latino communities has become a defining part of the pandemic.

The big picture: That's a result of myriad longstanding inequities within the health care system and the American economy.

For Christina Henderson — who daily dons a mask and gloves to serve meals to hundreds of people in her predominantly black D.C. community — the statistics that flash across her television about the racial disparities in coronavirus cases are upsetting, but not surprising.

  • Henderson — better known as Ms. Tina by the neighbors and volunteers she sees every day — is the program director for the DC Dream Center, a nonprofit that serves the predominantly black neighborhoods of Southeast Washington, D.C.
  • “To hear people and their fear, that is — that’s hard,” she told me. “I’m 76 — I’ve dealt with this my entire life. No, I’m not surprised that they’re treated that way."

By the numbers: 75% of the people who have died from the coronavirus in D.C. were black. These deaths are disproportionately concentrated in the district’s poorest, blackest neighborhoods in southeast D.C.

  • In New York City, the death rate for black residents is 92.3 deaths per 100,000 people, for Latinos is 74.3 per 100,000 people, and for whites is 45.2 per 100,000 people.

These disparities reflect a slew of other, older disparities. Behind the shocked tone of so many headlines is a set of social and policy problems that are pretty familiar to health experts and even more familiar to the people they hurt.

  • Minorities have higher rates of medical conditions that make them more vulnerable to death and severe infection if they catch the coronavirus, including heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma, influenza and pneumonia, diabetes and AIDS.
  • “When you go into the emergency room, you go into health care, black Americans do not get the same health care as white Americans,” Ms. Tina said.

Social factors — including adequate housing, access to transportation, income, social supports and employment — have been shown to affect people's physical health.

  • Disparities in each of those categories were already contributing to widespread health disparities even before the coronavirus, and they've now become risk factors for the virus, as well.
  • In 2018, 26% of black families, 27% of Latinos and and 16% of whites lived in multigenerational households, according to Pew Research Center.
  • “I realize it’s because of the types of jobs they do, how they live, because a lot of them live in very close quarters. A lot of people we deal with live in shelters,” Ms. Tina said.

Testing was also slow to ramp up in poorer communities. .

  • "When they went into the hospital, they were not treated with respect. And they were not tested, and they were sent back home," Ms. Tina said.

The bottom line: The racial disparities of the pandemic can't be separated from the racial disparities that black and Latino Americans face in their daily lives.

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Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Sep 16, 2020 - Health

The pandemic's racial disparities are bigger than health care

Reproduced from Kaiser Family Foundation; Chart: Axios Visuals

Racial disparities exist at every stage of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report by Epic Health Research Network and the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Why it matters: The more we learn about the coronavirus's disproportionate impact on people of color, the clearer it becomes that this is much more than just a health care problem.

Sep 15, 2020 - Health

NIH director: Access to opioid addiction treatment is lagging in the pandemic

Axios' Caitlin Owens and Linda Porter, director of the Office of Pain Policy at the National Institutes of Health.

Opioid overdoses have spiked during the coronavirus pandemic, Linda Porter, director of the Office of Pain Policy at the National Institutes of Health, said on Tuesday during an Axios virtual event.

What's happening: People with opioid-use disorder have had "an extremely difficult time" getting medical treatment or behavioral therapy during the pandemic, Porter said.