Indiana Daily Student

Black Voices: COVID-19 is affecting African Americans in Indiana at a disproportionate rate

<p>IU added an ethical exemption to the list of its COVID-19 vaccine mandate exemptions July 19, 2021. The pandemic has disproportionately affected the Black community.</p>

IU added an ethical exemption to the list of its COVID-19 vaccine mandate exemptions July 19, 2021. The pandemic has disproportionately affected the Black community.

The new variant of COVID-19, Omicron, is making its way all over the United States expeditiously. According to CNN, the U.S. is experiencing an unprecedented spike in COVID-19 cases fueled by the fast-moving Omicron variant.

This pandemic has been affecting the health of our nation for over two years. In Indiana, the African American community is affected at a greater rate than the white community, according to the Indiana state government.

African Americans make up only 9.8% of the population in Indiana, and represent  7.7% of positive reported cases of COVID-19. The African American community makes up 7.9% of COVID-19 related deaths, according to IN.gov. Caucasians make up 85.1% of Indiana’s population and 71.2% of positive COVID-19 cases. Caucasians are 76.3% of COVID-19 related death rates. 

When the numbers for both races are compared it’s evident a racial disparity exists. 

An article was written in the Indianapolis Recorder regarding Indiana’s COVID-19 rates and it highlights the racial disparities in the state's healthcare system.  

“It isn’t a new phenomenon,” Indiana State Representative Vanessa Summers said. The evidence is simply reaching a new audience.  It’s nothing that we didn’t already know. What has happened is … white folks see it now. That’s the difference. We’ve been knowing, and we’ve been fighting.” 

In the article, Summers said she recognizes systemic racism is not anything new in the world we live in. Many people are starting to focus on it more because of issues affecting the  Black community. 

In relation to Summers comments, the chief medical officer for the Indiana State Department of Health, Dr. Lindsay Weaver, talked about plans the health department is making in terms of systemic racism in the article from the Indianapolis Recorder

“The state health department plans on tackling racial disparities in COVID-19 similarly to how it handled disparities in infant and maternal mortality: through information campaigns and increasing accessibility,” Weaver said.

Indiana is now offering COVID-19 resources to its residents such as free COVID-19 tests for anyone over the age of 5. These tests can be scheduled online, by phone or in person. 

Resources posted on IN.gov include a cleaning guide for businesses, food assistance, funeral assistance due to COVID-19 related deaths, newborn screening sources and more. The public resources offered from the state provide evidence that the state government is following through with the solutions Weaver mentioned. 

In addition to these efforts, Indiana has to hold healthcare workers accountable. Summers said Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb isn’t addressing systemic racism that occurs in many hospitals and healthcare settings. 

This lack of accountability from healthcare professionals is affecting African Americans in Indiana who haven’t been diagnosed with COVID-19 as well. The same disproportionate rates of illness and death are displayed with Indiana’s maternal and infant mortality rate, according to IN.gov.

Availability of resources for all residents should only be the start. This racial disparity in healthcare in Indiana is gaining attention and gives hope to future solutions.

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