April 09, 2020 

By Brittany K. Jackson 

Contributing Writer 


On Tuesday, April 7, 2020, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) held a conference call with the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) to address rising concerns about the deadly impact of COVID-19 on Black communities and the proposed solutions to mitigate the issue. CBC Chair and Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA-37) hosted the call along with NNPA Chair, Karen Carter Richards and NNPA President and CEO, Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.

The call highlighted resources proposed in the CARES Act (SNAP, unemployment insurance, small business funding) and the alarming coronavirus mortality rates.


Congresswoman Bass, says that foremost, testing must be “targeted and concentrated” in underserved communities of color, particularly to alleviate disparities in prisons and jails, for pregnant women and among the elderly population.

In order to do this, the CBC recently wrote a letter to Director for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Robert Redfield, M.D., requesting “immediate racial data reporting for COVID-19 in every state, amidst rising trends in infections and mortality of Black people with coronavirus.”


Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot was amongst one of the first local officials to launch the “patient data order” in lieu of statistics discovered by Chicago’s Department of Public Health. According to Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D., approximately 52% of diagnoses and 72% of COVID-19 deaths in Chicago were in Black residents.


Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL-02) and Chair of CBC’s Healthcare Braintrust says securing this data is “critical to a targeted response that ensures ample resources, including testing and funding are deployed to the communities hardest hit. Without this data, we will continue to risk the lives of people in this country,” Rep. Kelly added.


Members of CBC say the core of the disparity is rooted in the overarching health status of many African Americans. “When it comes to a pandemic, it makes us more susceptible because we have underlying health issues,” an executive member uttered. State representatives on the call also attested to the symptoms of Black patients being minimized with many being sent home without proper care for the virus. While the statistics are bleak, they are still developing and some CBC members say that the public and media should be careful not to classify COVID-19 as a “Black virus”.


Dr. Anthony Fauci of President Donald Trump’s national coronavirus task force also weighed in, saying the pandemic is “shining a bright light” on the alarming and “unacceptable” health disparities of Black people in the United States. “As Dr. Birx said correctly, it's not that they’re getting infected more often, it’s that when they (African American) do get infected, their underlying medical conditions, the diabetes, the hypertension, the obesity, the asthma - those are are kind of things that wind them up in the ICU and ultimately give them a higher death rate,” Dr. Fauci stated.


Dr. Fauci, whose career accelerated in the wake and response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, says America must take charge in mitigating the health issues facing African Americans.


Ayanna Pressley, Congresswoman for Massachusetts’ 7th Congressional District says we should also pay great attention to the socioeconomic implications of the virus on Black communities, calling for “equity and economics recovery” and a “federal standard” for helping lower-income communities. Pressley says that we must ‘fight for community health centers” and faith-based institutions to be financially equipped and empowered as go-to resources for COVID-19 assistance.  “We need a federal standard. We need to fight for community health centers,” Pressley said.


Pressley also said that “Black student borrowers, who borrow more than anyone else, should be considered as part of any comprehensive economic recovery plan.”


When it comes to Black businesses, House Representative Dwight Evans (D-PA-03) indicated that while many “Black businesses are fully participating with opportunities available through SBA, large banks have implemented policies that they will not lend to anyone they have not established a relationship with already.” Meanwhile, the Trump Administration held a conference call with some of the nation’s largest banks and its business executives to highlight their capital contributions for small business owners, although little detail was offered on the qualifying standards needed to secure the loans.


Another concern presented during the call was whether the Department of Labor’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act would include any financial incentives for felons currently employed by small business owners. Representative Joyce Beatty (D-OH-3) says “felons should not be held to the federal standard” during the crisis, stating that the concern will be cast to the front of the CBC’s legislative efforts for felons who’ve served their time. 


With all of the seemingly uphill battles facing African-American communities across the nation, Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI-14) says “we’re going to have to sound the alarm that this is real,” stressing that all state officials should comply with health and social distancing orders to reduce the spread. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18) says the nation’s leading headlines should focus on preparedness. “We don’t want to panic, but we want to be prepared,” Rep. Jackson Lee emphasis.


For more information on the Congressional Black Caucus initiatives to address COVID-19, please visit cbc.house.gov.

Category: News