ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. (KMOV.com) -- In St. Louis County, black residents are affected nearly twice as much by COVID-19 than white residents.
In data released Wednesday by the Department of Health, 55.1 percent of COVID-19 patients in the county identified as black, compared to 36.6 percent of patients who said they were white.
Also on Wednesday, St. Louis City officials told News 4 all 12 of their confirmed coronavirus deaths were black.
“It is a factual statement to say that it has [had a bigger impact on minority communities] to date and we expect it to continue to do so,” St. Louis County Executive Sam Page told News 4 Tuesday.
More importantly, only 60 percent of positive cases have patients who reported their race. Under the current reporting, 440 patients have identified as black. With 1,302 reported cases in the county (the most in Missouri), if the percentages held at the current rate, that would mean 716 patients are black, compared to 476 white patients.
But doctors are quick to point out the numbers only illustrate existing social inequalities.
Minority populations are not more adversely affected because of their race, but rather the lack of access to affordable healthcare and other conditions that existed prior to the outbreak.
“The reason for that isn’t necessarily about race, it’s about social inequalities. We know that populations that are socioeconomically challenged that don’t have access to health care, that don’t have access to nutritious food, are victims of many diseases including diabetes, high blood pressure, all of these things," said Dr. Alexander Garza of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic task force.
"So the question isn’t really ‘is it affecting a minority more so than others?’ Really what it is is an indication of social inequalities that existed before this pandemic came around," Garza added. "It’s really a symptom of the disease of social inequity. It's not that the virus has any predilection for minorities. It really is just a reflection of what we know already exists out in the community.”
St. Louis County's numbers may not be far off from the national average. While nationwide data remains very limited, Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said during an appearance on CBS This Morning black Americans are at a higher risk. Data from Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan and New Jersey shows an elevated number of black patients compared to white.