While the effects of COVID-19 on the health of racial and ethnic minorities in the United States is still emerging, current data suggests a disproportionate burden of illness and death among black and Hispanic groups.

A recent analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation, a leading global health policy NGO, found that African Americans, Hispanics and other minority populations are being the hardest hit.

In New York City, the country’s epicentre, more Hispanics per capita are succumbing to the illness than any other ethnic group.

According to initial data from the Centres for Disease Control about 33% of people hospitalised with COVID-19 are black, while only 13% of the population is made up of that demographic.

In New York City, by far the hardest hit region in the country, black people account for 92 deaths per 100 000, Hispanics or Latinos 74 per 100 000; substantially higher than whites at 45 or Asians at 34 deaths per 100 000.

Low-income communities are testing positive for COVID-19 antibodies in greater numbers as well.

New York State Governor, Andrew Cuomo, says the data informs them on what to do going forward.

“The data is very powerful and informs what we’re doing going forward. The test was done in New York City because that’s where we have the highest predominance of cases. But in lower income communities, communities of colour, we partnered with the faith-based community, with churches to conduct tests. We found about 27% of the individuals testing positive. That’s compared to the New York City general population of about 19%.”

Entertainment channel BET recently produced a special fundraiser aimed at minority communities billed “Saving ourselves” to assist African Americans communities most impacted by this public health emergency.

“My heart dropped because, all I could think about was, ‘oh, no, we can’t have something like this take out our community.’ You know what I mean? I feel like we’ve been through so much. Our ancestors have been through so much. So, we have to get through something like this. Like they got through, they’ve gotten through so much and we have to get through this,” said Co-host and singer Kelly Rowland.

Dr Nana Afoh-Manin, a trainee emergency room physician, originally from Chicago’s predominantly black South Side, founded a company, MY COVIDMD, to bring free tele-health to poorer and underinsured people while placing the issue of universal public health front and centre.

“Everyone needs access. And as we start talking about healthcare, let’s get past this coronavirus and really have a united conversation about what does it mean to be a country that’s taking care of their own in the most basic way. It is healthcare. It’s not an issue about haves vs the have nots; it’s basic healthcare. And if we can just agree on that, we’re going to be a better, stronger and more beautiful and kinder America after this,” Afoh-Manin said.

Former President Barack Obama also weighed in on the matter. He says the virus spotlights the underlying inequalities and burdens on black communities.

“Let’s be honest, a disease like this just spotlights the underlying inequalities and extra burdens that black communities have historically had to deal with in this country. We see it in the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on our communities, just as we see it when a black man goes for a jog and some folks feel like they can stop and question and shoot him if he doesn’t submit to their questioning. Injustice like this isn’t new. What is new is that so much of your generation has woken up to the fact that the status quo needs fixing.”

Poorer communities represented in greater numbers by minority populations in the US have multiple factors putting them in a higher risk category of contracting a severe case of COVID-19, a group that often under-insured, meaning less regular interactions with a physician over a lifetime.

New York City’s essential workers from public transit to delivery personnel are overwhelmingly minorities who also tend to suffer from underlying conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

In the video below, US Health Protection Agency says that it has published guidelines to curb the spread of COVID-19.