By Stacy M. Brown — The coronavirus (COVID-19) is no longer a problem for China. And, it’s not some passing bug that causes only little to worry.
The deadly illness now has many in an almost panic-like state as new cases seemingly are diagnosed every day.
Many are wearing masks, coughs, and sneezes incite, and even the National Basketball Association has directed its players to give fist-bumps instead of high-fives and have urged them not to sign autographs.
For communities of color, the concern is understandably palpable because of the historical disparities in health conditions and diseases.
“Communities of color are often more heavily impacted by emerging infectious diseases and other emergency events,” noted Dr. Suzet McKinkey, the CEO of the Illinois Medical District, the largest urban medical district in the United States.
McKinney, the former Deputy Commissioner of Chicago’s Public Health Preparedness and Emergency Response, is the only African-American female CEO of any significant medical district in the country.
“There are many reasons for lack of information or lack of consumption of information, which generally are attributed to large-scale community mistrust of government messages. To protect against coronavirus, here are five things communities of color and all communities should do to protect themselves,” stated McKinney.
The disease reportedly has affected 70 countries, with 90,000 cases and 3,100 deaths. The vast majority of cases and deaths have been in China.
In the United States, as of March 3, there are 80 reported cases of the virus, including 40 Americans who were aboard a cruise ship detained in Japan.
Washington State health officials have reported that six people have died from the virus there, while Georgia medical personnel announced their first two cases of coronavirus on March 2.
In the nation’s capital, health officials tested the sixth person this week, bringing the total there to six who have undergone testing since the outbreak of the virus in December 2019.
In Ward 7, a predominately African American section of Washington, D.C., City Councilman Vincent Gray voiced his concern.
“As part of my oversight of the Department of Health, I have had numerous questions regarding the District’s response to potential threats of the coronavirus including how we conduct tests and prepare residents for any health risks associated with the spread of this deadly virus,” Gray said.
In a guest column for the Philadelphia Tribune, Glenn Ellis wrote that as frantic efforts to control the spread of the virus continues, he couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if it worsened.
“Is there is a possibility we would see it follow the same pattern of racial health disparities as we do in other health conditions and diseases?
“African Americans are affected disproportionately by every disease and health condition, I’m sure there’s no need to elaborate,” noted Ellis, a Research Bioethics Fellow at Harvard Medical School and author of “Which Doctor?” and “Information is the Best Medicine.”
Dr. Amber Robins, a physician with Your Doctors Online, a website that allows people to chat with a board-licensed doctor for consultations on various health concerns, told NNPA Newswire that the coronavirus seems more dangerous for the elderly and individuals with underlying health conditions.
“Communities of color should understand that similar to other viruses, the way to help prevent spread is by using good hygiene such as washing your hands frequently. Also, staying home when you’re sick, and covering your cough with your elbow or a tissue,” Robins stated.
“The CDC is also recommending communities to be prepared for a possible spread of the coronavirus. For the communities with confirmed cases of coronavirus, they recommend canceling social events, making preparations to work from home, and preparing for school dismissals.”
In an email, Ayanna Julien, the Managing Editor of the life insurance site, Quickquote.com, noted that communities of color need to understand that the symptoms of the coronavirus will present very much like a common cold – i.e., a runny nose, cough, sore throat, fever, shortness of breath, and headache.
“As with the common cold, anyone with a weakened immune system, such as the elderly and children or those with a pre-existing health condition, are most at risk, so extra care should go to them,” Julien opined.
“Also, communities of color need to know that you or someone you know could already have it and not know it can take up to 14 days before symptoms present. So, as a precaution, it’s best that you and your loved ones always practice covering your mouth when you cough and distancing yourselves from others when they sneeze or cough,” Julien added.
Julien encourages the frequent washing of hands — for at least 20 seconds at a time. She also recommended the use of disinfectants to keep common areas clean and limit the spread of germs, and to wear a face mask and gloves when in direct or indirect contact with the secretions of someone who appears sick or otherwise limit exposure to that individual.
“Because the typical symptoms of coronavirus present similar to a common cold, the most important thing for communities of color to understand is that it’s critical to act quickly if you start to notice these symptoms,” Julien said.
“The best-case scenario is that it may be the common cold. But the worst-case scenario is that it may not be, and the longer you wait to seek medical care for confirmation and treatment, the worse it can get, including spreading it to others and potential death.”
“Knowledge is power, and the best thing communities of color can do right now is to tell others about the coronavirus and how to be proactive against the spread of the virus, both among loved ones and strangers. Also, when someone appears to have symptoms, then seek medical care immediately. Don’t wait and stay safe.”