Coronavirus hits poor and minority communities hard in the South

Coronavirus explodes across Southern states

Last Updated Apr 7, 2020 7:04 PM EDT

The coronavirus has been exploding across the South. In a dozen Southern states, there have been nearly 65,000 confirmed cases and more than 1,700 deaths.

The death rate from the virus in Louisiana is the second-highest in the U.S. Many victims there had underlying conditions. The most common factor is high blood pressure.

Governor John Bel Edwards reported 70 new deaths Tuesday and said they're still bracing for the worst.

There's an alarming disparity in the state: more than 70% of the coronavirus deaths are African Americans, who comprise only 32% of the population. 

"It's very sad to say I'm not shocked this is happening if you have a disease that's going to kill more people with hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and you have a health disparity like this, it's not shocking," said Dr. Amy Lessen of Dillard University.

Louisiana has one of the nation's highest rates of people with pre-existing conditions.

As coronavirus rages through the South, it's hitting a vulnerable population especially hard: the poor with little access to health care — and blue-collar workers who don't have the option to work from home.

Beyond Louisiana, cases are spiking across the South including in Florida, where hundreds — who were not practicing social distancing — lined up for unemployment forms because they were unable to file online. In Georgia, a long line of cars as a new drive-through testing site opened.

On Tuesday, one of the latest efforts to slow the spread at the Texas-Louisiana state line, cars are being diverted off of busy Interstate 10 as they enter Texas. At the head of the line, they're questioned by state troopers and asked where they plan to self-quarantine for the next 14 days.

Unless they have an exception for business or emergency services, that's the order mandated by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

Coronavirus — Texas
A Texas Department of Public Safety State Trooper directs traffic at a checkpoint in Orange, Texas, near the Louisiana state border, on Monday, April 6, 2020. AP