UPDATED: 11:10 p.m. ET, March 11 —
The exponential spread of the coronavirus across the globe has left many of the world’s citizens shaken to their cores as health officials work to figure out a solution to the hyper-contagious illness that is also known as COVID-19.
But while the coronavirus has been diagnosed in all of the continents except Antarctica, a lot of people across social media have taken notice that there hasn’t been a single announcement of a victim, whether fatal or otherwise, being a Black person. That was true up until Wednesday night when it was announced that the NBA was suspending the rest of its regular-season because star player Rudy Gobert had been diagnosed with the coronavirus.
Before that, folks on social media were leery that it was even possible.
In fact, some even went so far as to offer their decidedly unscientific opinions and declare without any hint of proof that Black people are somehow immune to the coronavirus.
However, the only race-based reports about the coronavirus have been about people ignorantly targeting Asians for hate crimes, presumably based on the racist premise that they’re somehow responsible for the virus being in America.
This latest incarnation of the coronavirus was first reported out of the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. Since then it has gone on to infect more than 13,000 people and kill more than 4,000 others worldwide. In the U.S., the number of infected was more than 800 and the number of deaths was at least 27, according to the New York Times.
It had been tough to ignore that out of all of those instances, there had not been one reported case specifically pointing to a Black person or Black people being infected by or dying from complications stemming from contracting the coronavirus.
That seemed to pave the way for the unfortunate and very false narrative that Black people were immune to coronavirus because of our “African skin,” an assertion that has been repeatedly debunked despite persistent and unfounded claims to the contrary by people who have no scientific data to back up their claims.
With that said, the coronavirus is in 10 African nations and has affected about 100 people across the continent. Its first death was in Egypt, where CNN reported that more than half of Africa’s cases are.
Dr. Jen Caudle, an African American family physician and an associate professor at Rowan University in New Jersey, confirmed to the Philadelphia Inquirer that yes, Black folks can indeed contract the coronavirus.
“There is no evidence to say that black people cannot get coronavirus. This is a myth,” she said. “Anyone can get coronavirus.”
The theories being pushed on social media were enough to leave some folks fed up that the unfounded suspicions were being lent any real credence in the first place.
There are, however, some specific factors to the coronavirus that do make certain Black folks more at risk. That includes America’s homeless population, of which Black people make up 40 percent while only accounting for 13 percent of the country’s entire population. Being homeless increases the risk of contracting coronavirus twofold, Chunhuei Chi, director of the Center for Global Health at Oregon State University in Corvallis, told the Associated Press over the weekend.
“They are double risk,” he said. “One is a risk to themselves, the other is a risk to society.”
But those comments came decidedly outside of the context of race.
Similarly, the New York Times recently reported that living in poor and urban communities can complicate the kind of existing health risks that the coronavirus can exacerbate.
“An outbreak could devastate low-income black and Latino communities that, even in the best of times, face serious medical challenges,” the Times wrote.
And if the news that Gobert — whose father is Black and mother is white — wasn’t enough proof, it was already abundantly clear that the coronavirus does not discriminate against its victims based on race. To be sure, that means that Black folks can indeed contract the illness, just like everybody else.
The best way for everybody regardless of race or creed or religion is to get familiar with the basic facts and take the proper precautions as recommended by the CDC, which can all be found here.