Presidential candidate and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden live-streamed a virtual town hall morning to discuss the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on African American Communities.
California Senator Kamala Harris headlined the event, opening the town hall stating “What this pandemic has done is it has put a microscope on what have been long-standing disparities based on race in America.”
The panel also featured Ohio Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, Bishop Vashti McKenzieand Dr. Oliver Brooks, President of the National Medical Association.
The conversation centered around how the pandemic revealed socioeconomic disparities between different races, hitting the African American community the hardest. Senator Harris stated during the live stream that 30% of deaths from COVID-19 have been black Americans, while black Americans only account for 13.4% of the US population.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), African Americans have a higher rate of diabetes, high blood pressure,and obesity. A Los Angeles Times analysis reported that Black and Latino Californians ages 18 to 64 are more likely to contract COVID-19, and patients are two and a half times likely to die.
Dr. Brooks attributed the disproportionate impact to three main factors: pre-existing conditions, social determinants of health and racism. He emphasized the need for more testing in order to address all of the issues before it gets worse.
In addition to health impacts, Senator Harris also expressed how school and business closures are negatively impacting different minority groups.
“Over 50% of people with a college education or higher can work from home,” she said. “Only 4% of those with less than a high school diploma can work from home.” She added that America has over three million students who don’t have access to the internet, and thus are excluded from accessing online learning.
“Black people have always been aware of systemic and institutional racism, COVID-19 just proved to the rest of the country that it exists,” Congresswoman Fudge said. “If we don’t elect Biden, we will not recover in my lifetime.”
The town hall was also an opportunity for panelists to endorse and promote Biden’s campaign for President. The panelists emphasized the need for good leadership to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and future global crisis.
Congresswoman Fudge and Senator Harris both highlighted their beliefs that with a strong leader, the severity of the virus’ impact would not have reached this point, calling out President Trump’s minimization of and indifference towards COVID-19.
”We need to do everything in our power to elect Joe Biden as the next president of the United States,” Senator Harris said. “Failure of leadership from the current President of the U.S. has contributed to the pain [and] disparity from the pandemic. ”
Bishop Vashti McKenzie also agreed with Congresswoman Fudge and Senator Harris, adding that this pandemic has revealed both strong and weak leaders. Though churches across the country are closed, McKenzie and other religious leaders have learned to adapt during this unprecedented time to keep faith alive in their communities.
“We have to be very focused and very clear to keep our strong leaders in place and get a change of leadership who will make better decisions for our community,” McKenzie said.