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Coronavirus Latest: Pre-Existing Conditions Put Communities Of Color At Higher Risk Of Catching COVID-19

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Statistics show African Americans are disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus, and new research found certain pre-existing conditions may put them at higher risk.

While many people immediately think of pre-existing conditions like diabetes and hypertension, there are other elements to consider, experts say, including where someone lives.

Despite Gov. Larry Hogan's stay at home order, Penn North was bustling Thursday. People were coming and going and dozens of commuters streamed off buses. For many, it's not a matter of choice but of necessity.

Dr. Rashawn Ray, a sociologist at the University of Maryland College Park, said not everyone is able to work from home.

"Social distancing becomes a privilege, the whole thought of being six feet away, if you're living in a Baltimore housing complex and all of a sudden you have to go to work, you're going to pass 10 to 20 people presumably before you even leave your complex, so what that means is your exposure if high," Ray said.


In Maryland, while African Americans make up 30 percent of the population, they account for 37 percent of all coronavirus cases and are dying at a higher rate.

Those numbers in Maryland and elsewhere galvanized celebrities, who performed on a BET special Wednesday to drive home the severity of the virus.

Groups like the Baltimore Arabbers and NAACP have also gone through hard-hit communities offering information about how to prevent the spread of the virus.

Sandi Thomas lost both her mother and sister to COVID-19. Both died days apart at a Baltimore hospital.

"My mother and my sister are gone," she said. "They were doing everything they were told to do and yet it still got them."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still gathering statistics on why COVID-19 is hitting communities of color especially hard.

Ray, meanwhile, said the increased number of testing sites and medical resources in African American communities shows leaders are trying to make adjustments to meet the needs of those who are more at risk.

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department's website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ's coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

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