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Summit County Coronavirus Data Shows Disproportionate Impact on African-Americans

a photo of briefing room at Summit co public health department
Summit County Public Health demonstrated social distancing at a press briefing held when the COVID-19 pandemic first began.

Data released in Summit County Wednesday shows that coronavirus is disproportionately impacting African-Americans.

The data shows 15 percent of county residents are black, but 36 percent of people testing positive for COVID-19 in Summit County are African-American.

Summit County Public Health Epidemiologist Joan Hall says her department needs to increase awareness on how to avoid the coronavirus.

“Whether it’s increasing awareness in the African-American community, or among healthcare providers, or public health departments; it’s for all of that and for community leadership as well.”

Hall adds that, in the long-term, the pandemic should provide a “golden opportunity” to evaluate Ohio’s public health system to better serve all communities.

“Chronic disease prevention is a big issue. That’s something that we should have in place more resources for that. Whether it’s access to fresh foods or access to exercise.”

Hall says the department is still analyzing the data. But she says the disparity does not seem to be driven by biology.

“I think it might be more about the face-to-face type of employment, where there might not be the opportunities to work from home like with other populations. That could play into it; we do need to look into that more with the occupations of our cases. And then in healthcare access, as far as the comorbidities [and] a long-term impact, that could play into it as well.”

Hall adds that the report on how COVID-19 cases break down along racial lines should be updated within the next week. The county is still considering whether to release other demographic data, such as how many cases are in each zip code.

Kabir Bhatia joined WKSU as a Reporter/Producer and weekend host in 2010. While a Kent State student, Bhatia served as a WKSU student assistant, working in the newsroom and for production.