Surgeon general explains how coronavirus disproportionately affects people of color

US Surgeon General Jerome Adams addressed communities of color, telling them to take precautions not jut for themselves but for their "abuela," "granddaddy," and "big mama." When asked about his comments Adams said he used language that is used in his family.

Posted: Apr 10, 2020 6:25 PM
Updated: Apr 10, 2020 7:00 PM


US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams on Friday laid out how communities of color are disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, previewing how the Trump administration plans to assist them specifically.

'The chronic burden of medical ills is likely to make people of color less resilient to the ravages of Covid-19 and it is possibly, in fact, likely, that the burden of social ills is also contributing,' Adams said during a White House press briefing.

Adams has previously described how his own health issues represent a 'legacy of growing up poor and black in America.' During Friday's briefing, he pulled out his inhaler, which he said he's carried around for 40 years, 'out of fear of having a fatal asthma attack.'

It's long been known that black Americans and Hispanic Americans are more likely to suffer from chronic health conditions that can detrimentally impact how their bodies handle an additional illness. These minority communities also have less access to health care.

And early data suggest that a racial disparity has been playing out in the outcomes of coronavirus patients, with data from coronavirus deaths in Louisiana, Illinois, Michigan and New Jersey showing African Americans make up a higher percentage of the victims.

In Maryland, race also appears to be having an impact on the outcomes of residents infected by the coronavirus.

Recently released data from the Maryland Department of Health show that the rate of coronavirus infections and deaths is higher among African Americans than whites or other groups, according to the Baltimore Sun.

And Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said on public radio's 'Kojo Nnamdi Show' Friday that the county in Maryland she represents -- which is the most affluent, predominantly African American county in the country -- has struggled with its health care system and getting access to healthy foods.

'The coronavirus is indiscriminate. It does not know race. What it knows instead is chronic medical conditions,' Alsobrooks said, adding that those conditions are more frequently seen 'in poor people, black and brown people who have generally had disproportionate shares of it because of the health care systems in this country.'

Describing how social outcomes can have an impact on health outcomes, Adams also pointed out how people of color are more likely to live in densely populated areas, are more likely to live in multi-generational housing and are less likely to work in jobs that allow them to work remotely.

'In summary, people of color experience ... likely exposure to Covid-19 and increased complications from it,' Adams said. 'But let me be crystal clear: We do not think people of color are biologically or genetically predisposed to get Covid-19. There is nothing inherently wrong with you.'

Adams said the administration is 'taking steps now' to reach and strengthen communities of color.

'More details will be forthcoming, but we are actively working ... (on it through) data collection, targeted outreach to communities of color and increasing financial, employment, education, housing, social and health supports so that everybody has an equal chance to be healthy,' he said.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Administrator Seema Verma announced on Tuesday that her agency will be using Medicare data to analyze how race may play a factor into the health outcomes of coronavirus patients.

'Going forward, we now have a code for coronavirus, so we can actually stratify by demographic information. So we can look at race as a factor,' Verma said.

But asked during Friday's briefing why a minority public health effort like this didn't exist prior to the coronavirus pandemic, given that the disparities have existed for such a long time, President Donald Trump pivoted to what he's done for the economic outcomes of minority communities.

'One of the things I'm most proud of is what I've been able to do for the African American community. The lowest job numbers in the history of our country,' Trump said, adding that they've also had 'better health care than they've ever had before.'

Adams on Friday also underscored how important it is for these communities to follow the administration's social distancing guidelines and to refrain from drug, tobacco and alcohol abuse.

'We need you to do this, if not for yourself, then for your abuela. Do it for your granddaddy. Do it for your big mama. Do it for your pop pop,' Adams said.

Asked later if that language was offensive, Adams said: 'We need targeted outreach to the African American community and I use the language that is used in my family. I have a Puerto Rican brother-in-law. I call my granddaddy, 'granddaddy'. I have relatives who call their grandparents 'big mama'. So, that was not meant to be offensive.'

Adams also said that it was 'absolutely' important for all Americans to refrain from substance abuse.

New York Coronavirus Cases

County data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1962225

Reported Deaths: 51204
CountyCasesDeaths
Kings2593439882
Queens2589849503
Suffolk1904633298
Nassau1746733095
Bronx1723656353
New York1297814289
Westchester1240922234
Erie795801681
Richmond694401737
Monroe595391030
Orange45320782
Rockland45148935
Onondaga35415659
Dutchess27449430
Albany23323342
Oneida21214497
Niagara17712332
Broome17098348
Saratoga14122159
Ulster12755241
Schenectady12228190
Rensselaer10465135
Putnam1002391
Chautauqua8205132
Chemung7033133
Oswego685790
Ontario672091
Steuben6169141
St. Lawrence611394
Sullivan595868
Cayuga577890
Jefferson538163
Wayne511967
Cattaraugus501580
Genesee4996121
Herkimer4856107
Clinton444132
Madison423185
Tompkins400049
Fulton396186
Livingston392658
Montgomery3802114
Columbia379399
Cortland350260
Warren331455
Tioga330458
Wyoming319851
Allegany312983
Otsego310246
Greene306674
Chenango300773
Washington279555
Orleans269783
Lewis240833
Franklin236512
Delaware210336
Seneca184356
Schoharie149815
Essex148326
Yates109126
Schuyler97513
Hamilton2962
Unassigned16389
Out of NY0215
Rome
Partly Cloudy
41° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 41°
Binghamton
Partly Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 46°
Rome
Partly Cloudy
41° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 41°
Rome
Partly Cloudy
41° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 41°
WKTV Radar
WKTV Temperatures
WKTV Severe Weather
Saluting Those Who Are Proud 2 Serve
Enter the Rock Your Body Giveaway from Alivana Aesthetics
Looking for work or looking to hire? Check out the WKTV Job Fair!