Missouri COVID-19 Update for African Americans: October 5, 2020

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

At this time, Missouri has the 11th highest coronavirus-case rate, and the 16th highest COVID-19 death rate. African Americans make up a significantly disproportionate share of COVID-19 deaths in the state.

Missouri’s Covid Exit Strategy rating: Uncontrolled spread

As of October 5, 2020, Missouri had the 11th 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.[i]

New coronavirus cases are now on a downward trend in Missouri, but the level is still high for the state (Figure 1). The state’s coronavirus case rate per 100,000 is also a high rate relative to the rate for the country as a whole. Missouri’s case rate is 162 cases per 100,000, well above the national average of 93 cases per 100,000 (see Table below). The trend for the 7-day average for the number of new COVID-19 deaths is down to 14 from a high of 32 just over a week ago (Figure 2).

Using data collected on October 4, 2020 by the COVID Tracking Project, the Thurgood Marshall Institute compared the share of Black people in the Missouri population to the share of Black people among Missouri’s coronavirus cases and COVID-19 deaths. Missouri had no substantial discrepancy between the Black share of the state population (11.8 percent) and the Black share of coronavirus cases in the state (12.7 percent). On the other hand, 25.0 percent of the COVID-19 deaths in the state were of African Americans — 13.2 percentage points higher than the Black share of the state population.[ii]

African Americans in Missouri should pressure officials to find out and address the 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 Missourians should see that they receive the answer.

While it is not uncommon for coronavirus hot spots to be located in counties where African Americans make up a larger share of the population than their statewide average,[iii] this does not seem to be the case in Missouri. The top ten hot spots for coronavirus cases, and the top ten hot spots for COVID-19 deaths are not located in counties that are disproportionately African American. In fact, many of these counties are less than one percent African American.

The Missouri 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 one’s hands frequently, and staying home if you are sick.[iv]

Additional Resources

Show Me Strong: Recovery Plan, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services:

Covid Exit Strategy:

Answers to frequently asked questions about the new coronavirus by the New York Times:

[i] Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest map and case count, N.Y. Times (Oct. 6, 2020),

[ii] The share of cases and deaths is a conservative estimate. A third of the coronavirus cases and 8.1 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.

[iii] See Algernon Austin, Arkansas COVID-19 Update for African Americans: September 23, 2020, Medium (Sept. 30, 2020),; Algernon Austin, Louisiana COVID-19 Update for African Americans: September 30, 2020, Medium (Oct. 5, 2020),

[iv] Citizen Pledge, Mo. Dep’t of Health & Senior Services (last visited Oct. 6, 2020),

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