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Effects of COVID-19 on Young Black Americans

Updated: Dec 1, 2020

COVID-19 Affects Black Americans Disproportionately

COVID-19 affects certain minority groups disproportionately, according to various studies. The CDC reports that Black Americans accounted for 15.2% of COVID-19 cases, yet the percentage of deaths among infected Black Americans is 19.5%. Typically, younger Americans believe they are less likely to experience serious illness related to COVID-19. The common mindset is that older Americans or Americans with pre-existing conditions will be the only people to sustain serious symptoms from the virus. However, the CDC reports that the infection rate for young Black Americans between the ages of 18-29 is 13.7% and the deaths for Black Americans from that age bracket is 31.6%.


Who is Affected by COVID-19?

The CDC tracked 8,720,172 cases of COVID-19 in the United States. Those who were18-29 years-old accounted for 2,063,789 of the COVID-19 cases. When compared to White Americans, Black Americans had a hospitalization rate that was 4.7 times higher and a death rate that was 2.1 times higher.


These numbers from the CDC suggest that a large percentage of the COVID-19 cases are from the Black community. The U.S. Census Bureau indicates that the U.S. population is made up of 12.3% Black Americans, yet COVID-19 statistics show that Black Americans make up nearly one-fourth of all positive cases.


How Can You Protect Yourself?

The CDC released guidelines for how to protect yourself from infection or spreading the virus. By now, many are familiar suggestions to the American public. Many of these recommendations have been in place since the spring.

  • Wear a mask

  • Observe social distancing – 6 feet

  • Practice good hygiene

  • Avoid crowded situations

  • Avoid close, physical contact


Despite the CDC protocols and advice, many college-age students continue to gather socially, despite being aware of the dangers and risks associated with COVID-19. Many young adults have a hard time believing they will succumb to the more serious symptoms of COVID-19.


Many people continue to believe the serious symptoms are limited to those with underlying health conditions or the elderly. The CDC’s reports show that this is not completely accurate, as COVID-19 can cause serious injury and even death to nearly any age. Knowing the possibility of risks of infection or symptom complications may not be enough to overcome the more immediate symptoms of social isolation.


Preventing COVID-19 infection and contributing to slowing the increasing spread of the virus can be attained by following the CDC guidelines. But if these guidelines cause too much social isolation people struggle to maintain the recommended social distance. The risk factors associated with social isolation among college-aged Americans must also be addressed in order to help adapt to the conditions of the pandemic and the CDC’s recommendations.


Mental Health and COVID-19

COVID-19 has been associated with increased mental health concerns. Specifically, anxiety and depression issues increased between April and June of 2020 when compared to the same time in 2019. Of those reporting increased symptoms of anxiety or depression, 15.1% were Black. This same demographic reported increased substance abuse as well as suicidal thoughts.


Struggles with social isolation caused by restrictions in place by many states has created a difficult environment for Americans, especially Black Americans.


What Should You do if You Get Sick?

If you believe that you have been exposed to COVID-19 it is important to get tested and self-isolate. The CDC has provided a self-assessment tool that can help you manage your symptoms and provide recommendations for treatment. It is important to notify your doctor if you have a positive test or have symptoms. Keep in touch with your doctor and keep track of your symptoms. Stay hydrated and well rested, and try to stay in a separate space, isolating from other people in your home or dormitory.


Symptoms of COVID-19 include a fever and cough, however, there are many other symptoms. Call 911 if you experience shortness of breath, persistent chest pain, blue lips or face, or confusion. Though some of these symptoms may sound like the flu, COVID-19 can be a far more serious disease.


To learn more about the impacts of COVID-19 on the Black community, check out coronavirus.dc.gov

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Source: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#demographics

CDC, Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Suicidal ideation in the Covid-19 Pandemic. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/pdfs/mm6932a1-H.pdf

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