African-Americans in the Charlotte area appear to be disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 illness, according to demographic data released Monday by Mecklenburg County health officials.
Some local black elected leaders say it is a major problem that hasn’t gotten enough attention. Others — including George Dunlap, the chairman of the Mecklenburg County commissioners — said Monday they hadn’t studied data showing the racial breakdown of coronavirus cases, despite health officials having released the information publicly three times in the last week. Another update came Monday.
Data from Mecklenburg County showed black residents accounted for 43.9% of 303 confirmed COVID-19 cases locally through Saturday. By comparison, black residents make up only 32.9% of Mecklenburg County’s population, according to U.S. Census estimates from July 2019.
Dunlap says if black residents are disproportionately represented in the case count, it may be because they’re more often seeking testing. So far, Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris has not disclosed how many people have been tested for COVID-19 or released demographics for those who had negative test results. It’s not clear, based on information from county officials, whether more black people are being tested.
Still, Mecklenburg County Commissioner Mark Jerrell said the data on positive COVID-19 tests is “clear.”
“Certainly, African Americans are disproportionately impacted, and I’d like to understand some of the ‘whys’ behind that,” Jerrell said in an interview Monday. “I’m very concerned about that — it’s alarming, and it’s something we have to get under control immediately.”
The March 28 data, released Monday, shows white residents made up 42.2% of cases, with Hispanics at 7%, Asians at 2.6% and Alaskan natives or American Indians at less than 1%. In 4% of cases, race or ethnicity was not reported, officials said.
The county’s population, from 2019 Census estimates, shows 57.5% of residents are white, 13.6% are Hispanic or Latino, 6.4% are Asian, and 0.8% are Alaskan native or American Indian.
The data represents most but not all of Mecklenburg’s coronavirus cases. As of Monday afternoon, state officials say the local total has grown to 382 — 333 of whom are county residents. Others live elsewhere but tested positive in Mecklenburg.
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Source: Charlotte Observer