This disparity has not avoided Pittsburgh. According to Allegheny County data, Black people in the county are more than twice as likely to contract COVID-19 compared to white people in the county. As of July 7, there have been more than 58 coronavirus cases per 10,000 Black residents. There have been about 24 coronavirus cases per 10,000 white residents in Allegheny County.
Data also shows that Black people’s coronavirus hospitalization rates are more than three times as much as white people in Allegheny County, and Black people have 1.6 times the COVID-19 death rate compared to white people.
Activist organization 1Hood Media says the new data shows again how COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting the Black community. Since June 26, Allegheny County has seen a spike in coronavirus cases that health officials say is linked to people traveling out of state and returning home, as well as people visiting restaurants and bars. 1Hood says this spike in cases is falling hardest on the region’s Black workers.
“The rush to open and lack of communication has created a false sense of security and a demand to return to normal on the backs of service industry workers,” reads a statement from 1Hood. “The results are also a reminder that essential workers are working class Black folx who are being told they have to work or forfeit pay and become ineligible for unemployment in the future.”
Health experts from across the country have hinted that institutional racism, which has led to higher rates of poverty and an affordable housing shortage in Black communities, as a possible reason why Black people are being hit harder by coronavirus.
“You literally can’t isolate with one bathroom,” said Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II in the Times story. Gilchrist is leading the state’s task force on coronavirus racial disparities.
Pittsburgh has long struggled with racial inequality, and reports have shown it is one of the worst cities in America for Black people, in terms of quality of life. Few cities in America have bigger disparities between the average earnings of white people and Black people.
In April, 1Hood and other prominent Black leaders called on Allegheny County to start collecting race data related to coronavirus.
Allegheny County started to collect race data for coronavirus cases on April 11. So far, 88% of the county’s cases have included race information, 98% of hospitalizations have included race information, and 99% of deaths have included race information. According to the Times, Allegheny County is one of dozens of counties across the U.S. where Black people have been contracting coronavirus at significantly higher rates than white people.
“The entire staff at the Health Department and I are committed to providing data to the public that is accurate and informative and that examines issues of equity,” said Allegheny County Health Director Dr. Debra Bogen in an April press release.
1Hood says the racial disparity in COVID-19 cases is a reason the group included investment and resource demands for the Black community in their #Got12 policy proposals for Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. The group delivered these demands to leaders on June 15, in response to the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.
“1Hood has been sounding the alarm with our colleagues over at Urban Kind Institute and BW3 with our 'What Black Pittsburgh Needs To Know About Covid-19' townhall series,” reads a 1Hood statement. “We need better information, robust testing, financial support, and involved leadership to help reduce the spread of Covid-19.”
Asian people in Allegheny County, which include residents descended from people of India, the Middle East, China, and all other Asian countries, also have been disproportionately hit by coronavirus. Asian people have contracted COVID-19 at 1.4 times the rates of white people, and their hospitalization rates are also slightly higher. Asian people have COVID death rates lower than white people in Allegheny County.
As of July 7, there had been 3,979 coronavirus cases in the county. Of those, 2,365 were white people, 926 were Black people, 156 were Asian people, 54 were marked “other,” and 477 were race unknown. About 80% of Allegheny County residents are white, while about 13% are Black, and 3.7% are Asian.