Louisiana COVID-19 Update for African Americans: September 30, 2020
by Dr. Algernon Austin, Senior Researcher, Thurgood Marshall Institute
At this time, Louisiana has the ninth highest COVID-19 death rate and the 28th highest coronavirus-case rate. Louisiana is the fourth worst state by the Black COVID-19-deaths disparity and the ninth worst state by the Black coronavirus-case disparity. Seven of the top ten hot spots for new coronavirus cases in the state are parishes that are disproportionately African American. Two of them are majority African American.
Louisiana’s Covid Exit Strategy rating: Trending poorly
As of September 30, 2020, Louisiana had the 28th highest number of new coronavirus cases per 100,000 over the last seven days of any state in the United States. It had the ninth highest number of COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 over the same period.
New coronavirus cases are on a downward trend in Louisiana since a peak in July (Figure 1), and the case rate in the state is below the rate for the country as a whole (see table below). These positive developments have led Governor John Bel Edwards to move Louisiana to Phase 3 of reopening. However, Governor Edwards is correct to warn residents that “moving into Phase 3 does not mean that COVID is no longer a problem for us because in fact it is.” This is especially true for African Americans since it appears that they are concentrated in coronavirus hot spots in the state (see below for additional discussion of this point). As the state reopens, Black Louisianians should keep in mind that the Louisiana Department of Health has identified workplaces, restaurants, and bars as the leading places of COVID-19 outbreaks in the state.
In recent days, the 7-day average for new COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 has hovered at about 15 (Figure 2). This number is far below the state’s peak 7-day average of 66 in April, but it is still high compared to other states. Louisiana currently ranks ninth for its COVID-19-death rate.
Using data collected on September 30, 2020 by the COVID Tracking Project, the Thurgood Marshall Institute ranked states by the discrepancy between the share of Black people in the population and the share of Black coronavirus cases and, separately, the share of COVID-19 deaths. Louisiana was the ninth worst state by the Black coronavirus-case disparity and the fourth worst state by the Black COVID-19-deaths disparity. Although 32.8 percent of Louisiana’s population is Black, Black people made up 36.1 percent of the state’s coronavirus cases and 44.2 percent of the COVID-19 deaths.
Black communities in Louisiana should be very concerned and highly vigilant about COVID-19. Seven of the top ten counties by coronavirus-case rates have a Black population greater than the state-wide Black population (see table). African Americans comprise the majority of the population in two of these counties. Also, of the top ten counties for COVID-19 deaths, in six the Black population is greater than the state-wide Black populations and Black people comprise the majority of the population in one. Since it appears that Black Louisianians are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus, they should use their voices to call for stronger policies and more resources to address the pandemic both nationally and in their state.
The Louisiana State Department of 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 ones hands frequently, and staying home if you are sick.
Louisiana Department of Health COVID-19: https://ldh.la.gov/Coronavirus/
Covid Exit Strategy: https://www.covidexitstrategy.org/
 Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest map and case count, N.Y. Times (Oct. 1, 2020), https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html.
 Press Release, Gov. Edwards Outlines COVID-19 Restrictions as Louisiana Moves Cautiously into Phase 3 Until October 9, Off. of the Governor (Sept. 11, 2020), https://gov.louisiana.gov/index.cfm/newsroom/detail/2679.
 The share of cases and deaths is a conservative estimate. In many states, a substantial portion of the cases and deaths are of an unknown race. If any of these unknowns are Black, the Black share of cases and deaths would be higher. States where more than a third of the cases or more than a third of the deaths are of unknown race are not included in the specific disparity ranking.