CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Mecklenburg County leaders are concerned about the impact COVID-19 is having on the African American community.
April 3 numbers showed Mecklenburg County reported nearly 44.8 percent of the people who contracted COVID-19 were black - 38.2 percent were white. The worry is blacks only make up about 32.9 percent of the county’s population.
“We’ve got to develop a plan on how we are going to attack.” Mecklenburg County District Four Commissioner Mark Jerrell said.
Jerrell says he will request more data from the county health department and request it often. He believes the data will help minority communities during this pandemic. This is more than just a local issue - Jerrell believes state numbers need to be looked at too.
The numbers in North Carolina show Blacks make up about 38% of COVID-19 cases and 31% of deaths. African American make up about 22% of the total population. Leaders are concerned these numbers deserve an action plan.
“We can’t run from it,” Jerrell said. “We have to run to it. We’ve got to hit in head on and we got to make sure that we understand what is the data telling us and how is the data telling us we need to be responding.”
Jerrell says that response to the data could include more education about health matters taking place in the Black community and more resources to offer help.
“We have to go as far as we can,” the commissioner said. “To make sure that we’re leveling the playing field when it comes to all those social determinants of health.”
Leaders believe reasons why some Blacks suffer with battling COVID-19 more than others is pre-existing illnesses, a lack of healthcare and many are on the front-lines working in the grocery stores, gas stations and as a sanitation worker. The headlines are the same in other states like Illinois, Wisconsin and Louisiana. State Representative Carla Cunningham is also troubled about how COVID-19 impacts Blacks.
“We’re going to see the same thing,” Mecklenburg County State Representative Carla Cunningham said. “If we look at our demographics - if we look at our economic status of our communities of African Americans and minorities - if we look at the underlying disease processes such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease and lung disease...when you show up it’s almost too.”
Cunningham has about 35 years in the health care profession and serves on the state health committee monitoring the pandemic. She says one way to help minorities is to offer healthcare. She says this disparity is constantly on her radar when she is at the State House.
"One of the biggest reasons we have been pushing for," Cunningham said. "Medicaid happen for years - it would bring in a significant amount of minorities that don't have healthcare coverage."
Local NAACP President Rev. Corine Mack is also concerned. She knows several people - all black - who have suffered or died from COVID-19.
“This happened with my friends in New York City,” Mack said. “My friends in Florida. My friends in Michigan.”
Mack says this is also a concern of other NAACP leaders around the country.
"We all have the same concerns," Mack said. "We are beginning to look at the numbers and saying this is a problem. This is a clear and concise problem and it needs to be addressed."
Jerrell says he wants to address this so minority communities will have what it takes when it comes to the next pandemic.
“This will not be the last crisis that we face,” Jerrell said. “And so we are in a new world right now and we’ve got to make sure that we are providing equity to people.”