The racial disparities that have opened up during the pandemic, notably higher infection and death rates among minority communities, are a “very disturbing phenomenon that is a reality,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Thursday.
“There are things that we can do about it immediately, but [also] things that are going to take decades for us to correct,” Fauci told Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg during a live chat.
He said that African-Americans, Latinx, Native Americans and Alaskan Americans tend to have jobs that don’t allow them to work remotely, putting them at greater risk of getting infected. “Once they do get infected, as a group, if you look at the underlying conditions that lead to a higher likelihood of a bad outcome, those demographic minority groups have a much higher incidence of that,” Fauci added.
“And I’m talking about, hypertension, obesity, cardiovascular disease, other types of chronic lung disease, diabetes — those are the things that put you at a higher risk.”
Fauci said there are short-term solutions to address part of the problem.
“What you do is you put resources where you have a demographic concentration of individuals, so they can get tested easily, contact traced easily, have access to care — get under the care of a health care provider — quickly to try and mitigate the advancement of disease,” he said. He added this can be done “right away” by getting resources to particularly hard-hit areas.
But that only tackles part of the problem, he said.
“The broader picture of the social determinants of health that lead to minority groups having a higher incidence of diabetes, of obesity, of lung disease, of heart disease — those are the kind of things that we, as a society, need to address and commit to doing over a period of decades, because that’s not going to change overnight,” Fauci said.
“But let’s at least do the things that we can fix now — and we can fix access to care, we can fix ease of testing. We could do that now,” he said.