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Black residents 3 times as likely to have COVID-19 cases, Ingham County reveals

April 8, 2020
<p>Drive-through COVID-19 patients waiting to get through first stage of screening at Michigan State University&#x27;s drive-through testing site on April 2, 2020.</p>

Drive-through COVID-19 patients waiting to get through first stage of screening at Michigan State University's drive-through testing site on April 2, 2020.

Photo by Di'Amond Moore | The State News

The Ingham County Health Department held a COVID-19 briefing Tuesday, updating reported cases and demographics for the county. 

The meeting was led by Ingham County Health Officer Linda S. Vail, with moderation by Health Communication Specialist Amanda Darche.

As of April 7, Ingham County reported 191 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and one death. Vail said a total of 24 patients have recovered and 16 remain at home in recovery. They are actively monitoring 221 additional patients.

Additionally, 14% of Ingham County patients have been hospitalized, Vail said.

Vail said Michigan currently reports a total of 18,970 cases and 845 COVID-19 related deaths, as of April 7.

Vail said African Americans had a rate of 139 cases per 100,000 — three times the amount reported among white people, the race with the next highest rate, at 47 cases per 100,000.

Vail said the disproportionate impact on African Americans falls directly in line with the frequent disproportionate impact of a number of other illnesses. This happens for a number of reasons, including a higher prevalence of underlying conditions, making African Americans more susceptible to contacting the virus, and a higher poverty rate in African American communities.

“When you start to consider what’s going on in our world right now, and how that impacts people whose incomes are not as high … we have a population number of people sent home to work, can’t go to work, or they are some of our lower paid employees in the first place and so they are out at the front line in stores ... (and) restaurants,” Vail said.

Vail said there is also a lot of underlying stress that people of color live with on a daily basis, which makes them more susceptible to falling ill.

“When their underlying stress levels are high, what we know is that that affects their immune systems and makes them more likely to be affected,” Vail said.

The health department currently has a group focused on working with special populations. Vail said their first focus had been the homeless and the mentally ill, but in lieu of the new information, they are looking toward targeted outreach in areas with more concentrated African American populations.

“As we can imagine, there are any number of challenges---access to the grocery store … the inability to have that much food on hand, those sorts of things that cause people who are not fortunate, who are in poverty that go out maybe at times when others would not be going out,” Vail said.

Moving forward, Vail said an epidemic order written by Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon requires funeral home directors to report even a suspected COVID-19-related death.

At least one case has been uncovered through post-mortem testing, Vail said.

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