Pandemics do not kill equally

Every pandemic plan predicted that minority groups and vulnerable people would be the ones to get hurt the most. It took just weeks for communities of color to get hit disproportionately by COVID-19.
7:42 | 07/29/20

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Transcript for Pandemics do not kill equally
My mom was goofy. Like, she was really fun to be around. March 18th. She woke up, she wasn't feeling well. Her first thought was that it could possibly be covid. When I went to see her, she looked like she was deteriorating. I spoke with her doctor. And he just pretty much just flat out, like, you know, this isn't -- this isn't gonna turn out well. And just hearing those words just put me in a horrible place. She was 63. And she was healthy. She was healthy. Local jurisdictions, not the federal government, start noting that they're seeing big racial, ethnic disparities in mortality. While this pandemic is impacting every one of us, it isn't impacting everyone equally. The headlines about the disparities were beginning at the end of March. Among chicagoans with covid-19, more than half are African-Americans. 70% of all the deaths in Louisiana are of African-Americans. 80% of washingtonians who have died from this disease are African-American. Thank you very much. It's showing up very strongly in our data, on the African-American community. And we're doing everything in our power to address this challenge. It's a tremendous challenge. It's terrible. It should not have been surprising, historically we do know that minority populations, low-income populations, are at increased risk for exposure during a pandemic. We saw it with hurricane Katrina. We saw it with H1N1. We published in 2009, targeted, tailored, interventions to reach the most vulnerable. You don't stigmatize these populations. You enable them to follow the recommendations of staying home. My administration is closely monitoring the data on the virus's impact on our cherished African-American communities. The president said he was concerned about this. His task force said they were concerned about this. But I could never get the sense that there was any significant action plan. The whole thing from the federal point of view has been failure to take responsibility. We put out a civil rights bulletin, to make sure that -- the resources that were delivered to those impacted by covid-19 was done in a fair way. I think we were pretty proactive. The role of the federal government in this pandemic is very, very clear who's missing. Leadership that mirrors the diversity of the United States population. When you see that then we'll probably see different outcomes. I don't think we've made enough progress in dealing with disparities in health in order for African-Americans, hispanics, and native Americans to respond to any kind of challenge to their health, like a pandemic. Those deaths could have been prevented. And that's the most troubling part. President trump just moments ago saying it is time for the next front in this war. It is time to open up America again. April 16th, Dr Fauci stands in the white house briefing room and say here's the plan for reopening. You go into phase one if you get no rebound then you go into phase two. If you have no rebound, you go into phase three. The next day the president is tweeting people to ignore his own experts' plan. Are you more concerned about the economy? It should be the people first at all costs. African-Americans are a core part of the essential workforce. I think if the data showed that high-income whites were contracting the virus at a higher rate, we'd be looking at a different response from government officials across the country. The reopening from a health perspective it was reckless. Problems of leadership can be very dangerous because it affects how everybody else responds. So with the masks, I'm choosing not to do it. And I'm not doing it because I woke up in a free country. President trump's announcement that he wasn't gonna wear one, I think we're still suffering from that. It's all about freedom. What you see by the end of April is complete chaos. Let us work, let us work. As coronavirus cases in the us approach 1 million, more states rolling out plans to open up. When you mix science and politics, you get politics. You're gonna get deaths that could have been avoided. My dad was a first-generation Mexican American who grew up in the cantaloupe fields. May 15th was when Arizona officially opened up. So my dad, in listening to the advice of people in charge thought it was safe for him to resume normal activities. On June 11th, my dad woke up with extreme exhaustion, a cough and a fever. Mark Anthony Urquiza passed away on June 30th. His death is due to carelessness of the politicians who continue to jeopardize the health of brown bodies through a clear lack of leadership, refusal to acknowledge the severity of the crisis and inability and unwillingness to give clear and decisive direction on how to minimize risk. If we really wanting to address structural racism in this country, we need to get real with ourselves about the impact that coronavirus is having on these communities. Things that we can do now is to try and concentrate resources, testing capabilities, access to care. When we get out of this, we've gotta do something about the social determinants of health. That's a long-term problem that we should make a long-term goal. The man who died while in Minneapolis police custody is George Floyd. That case exploded into the national consciousness. Thousands of people taking to the street. We go from this, this disease is making you not be able to breathe. And to him, saying, hollering on national TV that he can't breathe. So -- and then you look at the climate of the country. I'm saying, "Well, maybe look at the correlation." We essentially had awareness of two sort of important public health events simultaneously, the virus, which we had been experiencing and the racial pandemic that was with us all along. We got hit by the virus that came from China. And we've made a lot of progress. Our strategy is moving along well. When you open, you have to right? And we never, ever got this right. We now have the greatest public health failure in our nation's history.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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