While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected people of all backgrounds across the globe, statistics show that it has had a disproportionate impact on black Americans. Data is limited, because only about 35 percent of U.S. cases specify a patient’s race, according to the CDC. But its numbers show that black people comprise nearly 34 percent of those infected with COVID-19, though they make up only 13 percent of the population. And African Americans make up nearly 30 percent of U.S. deaths from the virus, according to the latest Associated Press analysis.
Charlottesville is certainly not immune to this issue. In the Thomas Jefferson Health District, as of April 17, about 32 percent of people infected with coronavirus (and 25 percent of those who’ve died) are black, while black people make up only 13.9 percent of the district’s population.
Black communities in other parts of the state have been hit even harder by COVID-19. In Richmond, all eight people who’ve died from the virus were black. And while 48 percent of the city’s population is African American, black people make up about 62 percent of local cases.
Medical professionals, activists, and political leaders around the country have attributed these disparities to pre-existing inequities within our health care and economic systems. Blacks are more likely than whites to be uninsured and receive lower-quality health care, as well as have underlying conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, and heart disease—all often caused or worsened by poverty. And due to unequal education, housing segregation, and other systemic inequalities, a significant portion of black Americans live in densely packed areas and do not have jobs that allow them to work from home, making social distancing more difficult.
To provide more black Virginians with adequate health care access, the Albemarle-Charlottesville NAACP has sent a letter to Governor Ralph Northam asking him to use his “executive discretion” to speed up the Medicaid eligibility process using data available immediately from the Department of Taxation, along with other resources. Because there is currently a backlog of applications, those trying to be approved for Medicaid may have to wait as long as 45 days—which, for some people, “may be a death sentence.”
Quote of the Week
“There was a housing crisis two months ago, and this entire community spent a number of years moving towards addressing that…And now we have an even bigger crisis.”
—Brandon Collins, Public Housing Association of Residents, addressing City Council on Monday
UVA announced two tentative dates for graduation, after the original ceremony was canceled due to coronavirus. The class of 2020 will walk the Lawn on October 9-11, or, failing that, May 28-30, the weekend after the class of 2021 graduates. The university will still hold a digital ceremony to confer degrees this May, although it’s unclear if Zoom will have installed a virtual cap-flinging feature by then.
Sales are not on the menu
Seventy-eight percent of Virginia’s restaurant employees have been laid off since February, according to a new study from the National Restaurant Association. In the first week of April, the state’s restaurant sales declined 77 percent, compared to the same time period last year. That downturn has already forced longtime Charlottesville staple the Downtown Grille to permanently close its doors, while other beloved spots like Rapture, Tavola, and Oakheart Social have closed temporarily.
Death penalty critic Jerry Givens died last Monday in Henrico County at age 67. His son, Terence Travers, did not reveal Givens’ cause of death, but said that he had pneumonia and had tested positive for COVID-19. Givens, who spoke with C-VILLE in February for a story about the fight against the death penalty in Virginia, served as the state’s chief executioner for 17 years, before becoming an outspoken opponent of capital punishment.
Out of the House
Legislators in the state capital won’t be able to meet in their regular chambers for this month’s short veto session. Instead, Democratic leadership reports that the Senate will gather in a convention center, with members seated at desks 10 feet apart from each other, and the House will convene in a huge tent on the lawn near the capital.
Updated 4/22: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Rapture had closed permanently; according to the restaurant’s Facebook page, it is closed “indefinitely.”