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USCCB: Ask why coronavirus is ‘devastating’ black communities

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by Christine Rousselle

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 4, 2020 / 04:00 pm MT (CNA).- The bishops of the United States are calling for an examination of why the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted African-American communities.

“Our hearts are wounded for the many souls mourned as African American communities across the nation are being disproportionately infected with and dying from the virus that causes COVID-19,” said a statement released by the USCCB on May 4.

“We raise our voices to urge state and national leaders to examine the generational and systemic structural conditions that make the new coronavirus especially deadly to African American communities,” said the statement, which was signed by Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, Archbishop Nelson Perez of Philadelphia, and Bishop Joseph Perry, an auxiliary bishop of Chicago.

Fabre leads the USCCB’s ad hoc committee against racism; Coakley is the chairman of the conference’s domestic justice and human development committee; Perez heads the cultural diversity committee, and Perry is the chairman of the subcommittee on African-American affairs.

The bishops also wrote they “stand in support of all communities struggling under the weight of the impact this virus has had not only on their physical health, but on their livelihoods, especially front line medical and sanitation workers, public safety officers, and those in the service industry,” and that they are praying for the pandemic to end.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, a third of all patients hospitalized with COVID-19 are African American, even though African-Americans make up about 13% of the national population.

A study from Johns Hopkins University found that in the 26 states that have released racial breakdowns of their COVID-19 deaths, 34% of deaths were recorded among black or African-Americans — nearly triple the percentage of the population that is African-American.

In April, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) called the racial disparity of COVID-19 cases in his state “very disturbing,” and called for an investigation. In Maryland, African-Americans and Hispanics have been diagnosed with COVID-19 at rates far surpassing their percentage of the population.

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore told CNA that it is “both appropriate and responsible” for the Church to call for a “thorough and comprehensive understanding of the underlying causes and the effects of this virus on these communities, which continue to suffer from long-standing inequities in basic human rights such as access to quality healthcare.”

Lori told CNA that he has “great concerns” that the virus will have a major long-term and short-term impact on these communities.

“The Archdiocese of Baltimore wholly supports the call by the bishops’ conference for a study into the disparate impact of COVID-19 on minority communities,” said Lori.

“In the City of Baltimore and elsewhere in the State of Maryland we have seen firsthand how this virus has ravaged our brothers and sisters in the Latino and African-American communities.”

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