Policy institute sounds alarm on toll COVID-19 is taking on the state’s Black community

Updated: Jul. 17, 2020 at 11:42 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The African American community in South Carolina is being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and the South Carolina Institute of Medicine and Public Health broke down the numbers.

This week, the institute published a data brief laying out the disproportionate rate at which the Black community is being hospitalized and dying across the state due to COVID-19.

The brief is largely informed by South Caroline Department of Health and Environmental Control data.

The U.S. Census estimates 27% of South Carolina’s population is black.

The report states African-Americans represent:

  • 49.1 percent of South Carolina’s COVID-19 hospitalizations
  • 45 percent of South Carolina’s COVID-19 deaths

The report also breaks down South Carolina into four regions, stating all four areas are seeing disproportionate COVID-19 death rates for the Black community.

  • 36% of the Midlands’ COVID-19 deaths (while comprising 30% of the population)
  • 38.3% of the Upstate’s COVID-19 deaths (while comprising 19% of the population)
  • 56% of the Pee Dee’s COVID-19 deaths (while comprising 32.9% of the population)
  • 47.4% of the Lowcountry’s deaths (while comprising 29.6% of the population)

Institute Executive Director Maya Pack said she wants the data to help inform policy decisions on the local and state level.

Sisters of Charity Research and Policy Director Chynna Phillips commended the IMPH publication and said the statistics do not exist in a vacuum.

Phillips said that improving the health of minority communities would help move the entire state in a healthier direction.

In order to do that, she said racial inequities would need to be addressed.

“When talking about transportation issues, housing issues, all of that and how that plays in the health of the community, this is an opportunity to really make sure our leaders are connected with the communities themselves,” she said.

Phillips said she encourages the public to vote, donate their time and effort to charities in the community, and be cognizant of personal biases to help address the issues.

The report ends by citing the following conclusions to help address the disparities:

  • Continue to increase testing availability across the state, with focus on communities of color and communities with limited access to care. With knowledge of positive results, people can quarantine and get care earlier.
  • Streamline access to care for vulnerable populations, including people of color and low-income individuals. Access to better and earlier treatment will decrease COVID-19 mortality.
  • Promote face covering and social distancing through media campaigns, policy changes and ensuring that people have access to personal protective equipment like masks and sanitizers. Special messaging to vulnerable populations could increase individual-level prevention efforts.

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