Henrico County Health Districts Director Dr. Danny Avula, gestures during a news conference at the Government Center in Richmond, Virginia, on April 2, 2020.

AP Photo/Steve Helber

Danny Avula, the director of health districts in Richmond, Virginia, and Henrico County, Virginia, told Insider that 13 of the 14 people to die from COVID-19 in Richmond are black. 

Richmond has had 312 COVID-19 cases, 60 hospitalizations, and 14 deaths. White patients account for just 22.1% of COVID-19 cases, while black patients account for 58.3%.

Avula said that the disproportionately higher death rate in black communities is tied to “decades and centuries of structural inequity.”

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Almost all of the people to die from COVID-19 in Richmond, Virginia, are black Americans, according to Danny Avula, the director of Richmond and Henrico Health Districts.

Avula told Insider that black residents account for 13 of the city’s 14 COVID-19 deaths. The statistic shows that COVID-19 deaths are disproportionately affecting black communities ion Richmond, where, with a population of around 228,000, 45.4% of its residents are white, 47.8% are black, and 6.7 % are Hispanic.

“The fact that more African Americans in the city are dying of this, that’s not something new that’s specific to COVID-19. That’s a revelation of the underlying inequities that we have always dealt with, and this is just one more thing that’s bringing that to the forefront,” Avula told Insider. “It’s all rooted in decades and centuries of structural inequity.”

Virginia, as a whole, has had 14,339 COVID-19 cases and 492 deaths from the virus. Richmond alone has had 312 COVID-19 cases, 60 hospitalizations, and 14 deaths.

White patients account for just 22.1% of COVID-19 cases in Richmond, while black patients account for 58.3%. In total, white people have accounted for 68 cases and nine hospitalizations in the city, while black people account for 182 cases and 44 hospitalizations. Of the 14 deaths, 13 of the victims were black.

Racial minorities are being hit harder by COVID-19

Across the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that racial minorities have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

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That’s because, the CDC said, racial minorities are more likely to live in densely populated areas and multi-generational households, and make up a disproportionate number of the country’s incarcerated population — all factors that hinder social distancing. The agency also said that many racial minorities work at essential businesses, don’t have access to paid sick leave, and have underlying health conditions.

“The reality is that black Americans are disproportionately in lower socioeconomic strata, and therefore have higher exposure based on the jobs they have to work and that they’re relying on public transportation,” Avula said, adding that many of Richmond’s black residents work in healthcare institutions and at essential businesses.

Experts have said that black communities on average are in worse health than other groups. Studies have also found that black people might be less likely to seek medical help because of a distrust in the American health system, which has a history marred with racist experiments, including one in Tuskegee in which 400 men were part of a syphilis study without their knowledge. 

In a column for The Root published on Tuesday, civil rights leaders Rev. Dr. William J Barber II and Rashad Robinson wrote that black communities shouldn’t be blamed for having higher COVID-19 rates, but instead, should be provided with support and resources to help them prevent the spread of the virus.

“Black people have higher rates of asthma and are more likely to die from this virus because environmental racism has kept communities of color segregated near industrial pollutants that other communities can afford to avoid. Black people are overrepresented in institutions unable to allow for social distancing, like jails and prisons, because we’ve been targeted and over-criminalized for generations. Black people are concentrated in parts of the labor market that don’t have the infrastructure for paid time off or work-from-home options because our health and safety have never been a priority,” Barber and Robinson wrote. “Now, our country has to reconcile the inequality it has created.”

Virginia is trying to increase its testing abilities and provide black communities with personal protective gear during the pandemic

Virginia lags behind other states in administering coronavirus tests, according to the Washington Post. As of Tuesday, Virginia had administered 82,753 tests to its 8.536 million residents — that’s just 9,700 tests per 1 million residents, The Post reported.

Virginia officials are trying to improve their testing capabilities and are reaching out to regions that could face issues with access to tests.

“It is very important to let all Virginians — whatever neighborhood they come from, or whatever walk of life — know that we’re here for them,” Governor Ralph Northam said at one testing site, according to The Post. “We want to take care of them.”

In Richmond, government officials have started sharing COVID-19 data directly with public housing communities, setting up free walk-in testing sites, and providing residents with hand sanitizer, masks, and other personal protective gear during the pandemic.

“I think just being able to share information and help people understand that this is not some abstract threat out there, but there’s actually people in their own community that have the disease — it doesn’t mean we need to panic,” Avula said. “But it does mean that we should adhere to our physical distancing and stay-at-home measures more than we might otherwise.”

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