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Alabama COVID-19 Update for African Americans: October 13, 2020

by Dr. Algernon Austin, Senior Researcher, Thurgood Marshall Institute

At this time, Alabama has the 16th highest COVID-19 death rate, and the 21st highest coronavirus-case rate. African Americans make up a disproportionate share of COVID-19 deaths in the state. Four of the top ten coronavirus-case hot spots are in counties where African Americans make up a larger share of the population than their statewide average.

Alabama’s Covid Exit Strategy rating: Uncontrolled Spread.

As of October 13, 2020, Alabama had the 21st highest number of new coronavirus cases per 100,000 over the last seven days of any state in the United States. It had the 16th highest number of COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 over the same period.[1]

Currently, the 7-day average number of new coronavirus cases in Alabama is about 1,000 without a clear trend up or down (Figure 1). The number of new COVID-19 deaths has been fluctuating between about 10 and 15 for the past month (Figure 2).

Recently, the Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said,

African Americans disproportionately have borne the burden of disease from COVID-19. As you probably heard me say many times before, this isn’t a new health disparity. This is just the same health disparity that we have in so many other conditions that COVID-19 has just revealed once again.[2]

Using data collected on October 11, 2020 by the COVID Tracking Project, the Thurgood Marshall Institute (TMI) is able to confirm the disproportionate COVID-19 burden on African Americans. TMI compared the share of Black people in Alabama to the share of Black people among Alabama’s COVID-19 deaths. While 26.8 percent of Alabamians are Black, 36.8 percent of the COVID-19 deaths in the state were of Black people.[3]

African Americans in Alabama should urge state officials to find and address the specific root cause of this high rate of Black COVID-19 deaths. Is it due to inequalities in access to medical care or to differing rates of comorbidities? This is an answerable question, and Black Alabamians should see that they receive the answer.

Black communities in Alabama should be highly vigilant about COVID-19. Four of the top ten coronavirus-case hot spots are in counties where African Americans make up a larger share of the population than their statewide average, and three of them are in majority African American counties (Table). Two of the top ten hot spots for COVID-19 deaths are in counties that are disproportionately African American. Since Black Alabamians are disproportionately dying from COVID-19, they should use their voices to call for stronger policies and more resources to address the pandemic both nationally and in their state.

The Alabama Department of Public Health calls on residents to follow COVID-19 public health guidelines which include maintaining a six foot physical distance from others in public, wearing face masks when not at home, washing one’s hands frequently, and staying home if you are sick.[4]

Additional Resources

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), Alabama Department of Public Health: https://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/covid19/index.html

Covid Exit Strategy: https://www.covidexitstrategy.org/

Answers to frequently asked questions about the new coronavirus by the New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/world/coronavirus-tips-advice.html

[1] Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest map and case count, N.Y. Times (Oct. 12, 2020), https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html.

[2] Mike Cason, State health officer expects COVID-19 vaccine by end of year, Al.com (Oct. 15, 2020), https://www.al.com/news/2020/10/state-health-officer-expects-covid-19-vaccine-by-end-of-year.html.

[3] The Black share of deaths is a conservative estimate. 8.9 percent of the COVID-19 deaths are of an unknown race. If any of these unknowns are Black, then the Black share of cases and deaths would be higher.

[4] Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Prevention and Treatment, Ala. Dep’t of Pub. Health (last visited Oct. 15, 2020), https://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/covid19/prevention.html.

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