A group of Virginia doctors are calling for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization to release information about whether black communities are being left behind as the shortage of coronavirus tests continues in the U.S.
What We Know:
- Some doctors fear that many African Americans may not be receiving the access to coronavirus testing which stems from deep-seated inequities that disproportionately affect the community such as lack of paid leave, inadequate health insurance, income disparities, and access to medical facilities.
- “I don’t want to speak about black Americans as if we’re all the same, but there’s a lot of reasons not to trust the government to be fair in circumstances like these,” said Dr. Cameron Webb, who is running for Congress in Virginia to BuzzFeed News. “Yes, that’s a huge question, who has access to those tests…If you’re not an NBA player, it might be a little harder for black people to get access to those tests.”
- One of the ways doctors are screening patients is by looking for apparent symptoms such as dry coughing and a sore throat, which may deepen implicit biases that already exist within the healthcare system toward African Americans where the level of care is not equal to that of white patients. Many are calling for the data being gathered to be broken down by race and ethnicity in addition to age and gender.
- Currently the CDC’s coronavirus information site reports a total of 66,371 people across the country who have been tested with a reported 15,219 confirmed cases nationally. But, experts point out that those numbers alone don’t tell the full story.
“We know in the U.S. that there are great discrepancies in not only the diagnosis but the treatment that African American and other minorities are afforded. So I want to make sure that in this pandemic, that black and brown people are treated in the same way and that these tests are made available in the same way pattern as for white people,” said Dr. Ebony Hilton, an associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at the University of Virginia.
- Taison Bell, an assistant professor at UVA in the infectious diseases and pulmonary critical care divisions, said that while testing might not change the course of treatment, making people aware of how the virus is spreading in their community has the benefit of encouraging people to take the crisis seriously and act accordingly.
Testing could be crucial because people who show no symptoms of the illness can still have it and spread it to others if they don’t know they have it and don’t self-isolate.