COVID-19 is the third leading cause of death among Black Americans, a new report from the Brookings Institution says, according to CBS Radio Washington, D.C. affiliate WTOP. Only heart disease and cancer top the novel coronavirus.
One of the major contributing factors is that Black Americans disproportionately live in states that haven't expanded Medicaid, the report points out.
"If I told you on Jan. 1 that a new virus that we did not even know about would, in August, be the third leading cause of death for Black Americans, our hair should have been set on fire and we would have an extensive public policy response to this unprecedented pandemic," said Trevon Logan, professor of economics at the Ohio State University and co-author of the report.
Logan said the range of devastation has largely gone unnoticed, in part because most states have been under a quasi-quarantine since March.
Bradley Hardy, another author of the study, says over 50% of Black Americans live in a household where employment income has been lost since mid-March and 20% of families live with some form of food hardship.
He said Black families face not just pre-existing health conditions, but pre-existing economic disparities as well.
Hardy said almost half of Black households are concerned with their ability to make rent on a monthly basis.
"There's not just well-documented income gaps, but there's also really yawning wealth gaps," meaning little or no emergency savings to buffer against an economic shock.
"[Black] households don't necessarily have that resource or that cushion to lean on."
The report lays out many ways the pandemic has exposed how Black Americans are being affected by the virus.
The co-authors say policy solutions are required to solve the challenges both in the immediate and long term.