Graham Kilmer

African-Americans Hit Hard by COVID-19

Majority of cases in the City of Milwaukee are African Americans.

By - Mar 24th, 2020 06:08 pm
This heatmap shows the areas hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Image from the Milwaukee County COVID-19 Dashboard.

This heatmap shows the areas hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Image from the Milwaukee County COVID-19 Dashboard.

Data collected by public health officials shows that African-American men so far are the group most affected by the spread of COVID-19 in Milwaukee County.

Currently there are 268 cases in Milwaukee County, and 207 cases in the City of Milwaukee.

“The majority of the cases in the City of Milwaukee are on the north side of town, primarily African-Americans,” said City of Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik. As the map of positive cases shows, the northern half of the city has seen most of the city’s outbreak of COVID-19 cases. The three recorded deaths in Milwaukee County have all been middle-aged African American men.

Local officials are scrambling to respond to the outbreak disproportionately affecting the black community. Kowalik told the media Tuesday that they are working on a public awareness campaign, including a number of public service announcements, aimed at the African-American community in Milwaukee.

The health department is also reaching out to leaders in the community to help raise awareness about the disease and ways to slow its spread, such as washing hands, social distancing and staying home.

COVID-19 is hitting the African-American community especially hard, in a way that mirrors black-white disparities in general health and well-being in Milwaukee, Kowalik said, and that is a legacy of racism and segregation.

The health department is studying what is leading to the higher rate of infection there, she said. They are finding that major issues include whether people have the option — “the luxury of being able to telework”– and whether they can afford not to leave their house for work every day.

Mayor Tom Barrett noted that he knows three individuals from the North Side that have tested positive for COVID-19. None of them have left the community in two weeks, he said, underscoring how quickly the infection has rolled through the city and confirming that community transmission of the disease is occurring.

The most important thing for the hardest hit areas, and for everyone, really, is to stay home.

Dr. Ben Weston, medical services director for Milwaukee County, said, “Positive cases continue to come in at an alarming rate.” Right now, there are 268 confirmed cases in Milwaukee County, with 207 in the City of Milwaukee.

The only one way to slow the rate of infection and to ensure that healthcare systems and hospital bed capacities are not overwhelmed, officials continue to stress, is to stay home.

“The penalty of not staying home is simply, and definitively more deaths in our community,” Weston said. “By not staying home, more people will die.”

March 25th Data Mapped

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