Bernie Hayes

Why are black people dying at such a disproportionate and alarming rate from COVID-19? Because of its devastation, this pandemic of can be known as the Black Death of the 21st Century, and I put emphasis on black.

Disparities in infectious disease mortality is partly explained by income and education. The National Longitudinal Mortality Study reveal death rates among black men and women in the U.S. under 75 years of age are higher than for their white counterparts. The explanation for this, though attributed to socioeconomic factors, remains unclear.

For persons aged less than 65 years of age, mortality rates are lower in those with higher family income for both blacks and whites and both men and women. However, at each level of income, blacks have higher mortality than whites.

Higher levels of family income are also associated with lower death rates from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and deaths from other causes. After adjustment for income, blacks have higher death rates from each of these three general causes.

With these statistics, I wonder why some in the African-American community ignore some state’s stay-at-home public health orders. A group of prominent civil rights and black religious leaders is calling on African-American communities nationwide to continue to stay home and defy governors of states who have begun to reopen businesses and public spaces.

The group, organized by the Conference of National Black Churches and Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, said some governors are demonstrating “reckless disregard for the health and life of black residents.” The group is urging black churches and businesses to continue to remain closed until there’s reliable evidence that it’s safe to return to normal.

Leadership with the NAACP, the National Urban League and the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights under Law are joining the group at encouraging the black community to stay at home.

Covid-19 has deeply impacted African-American communities, including St. Louis and East St. Louis, and shined a spotlight on the issue of health disparities in people of color. In Missouri, 39% of COVID-19 deaths as of May 12 were blacks, according to the state Department of Health and Senior Services, although African Americans make up about 11.8% of the state population.

I have lost more than a dozen friends to the pandemic, and perhaps we all know someone who has become sick or died from the coronavirus. Are you following the guidelines that will keep you and your family safe?

We all are suffering, and while we support Black Lives Matter, we must remember that Black Death’s Matter Too.

Please stay safe and please watch the Bernie Hayes TV program Saturday night at 10 p.m. and Sunday evenings at 5:30 p.m. on NLEC-TV Ch. 24.2 I can be reached by e-mail at or on Twitter @berhay.

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