LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Five people who died due to the coronavirus in Calcasieu Parish were African Americans, the Calcasieu Coroner’s Office said.
African Americans account for a little over 70% of coronavirus deaths in Louisiana but make up 33% of the state’s population.
“Not only does the African American community suffer physically when things like this happen. But because we go in ill-prepared..it’s harder to get out of situations like this,” SWLA Health Center CEO Jayvon Muhammad said.
For health care professionals at the SWLA Health Center, the numbers surrounding the coronavirus are not surprising.
“This is not an African American problem per say, but this is a community problem, a nationwide problem,” Muhammad said.
Louisiana is one of 9 states reporting high case counts of COVID-19 in the black community and it’s no different in the Lake Area when it comes to the death toll.
Muhammad said access to affordable health care for minorities also play a factor in this pandemic - which local and parish officials say is constantly on the discussion table.
Head nurse Emily Ashworth said she sees plenty of patients who suffer from ailments like diabetes and hypertension - all underlying factors contributing to this pandemic.
“It’s really raised the attention because for me as a wellness nurse...working here at SWLA, we’ve always been open for our community but it’s opening they eyes of those outside the community," Ashworth said. "So, it’s very important that we take this opportunity not to settle in fear but to say let me go outside and walk for 30 minutes or let me look at my plate and reduce this down to moderation.”
Louisiana Senator John Kennedy also weighed in on the growing statistic.
“Once this is all over and it will be over...we’ll have to look at what we did right and wrong," Sen. Kennedy said.
During the White House task force briefing on Tuesday, President Trump publicly acknowledged the racial disparity for the first time.
“We are doing everything in our power to address this challenge, and it’s a tremendous challenge,” Trump said. “It’s terrible.”
He added that Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, “is looking at it very strongly."
Fauci said the crisis is shining a bright light on how unacceptable the disparities are.
“There is nothing we can do about it right now except to try and give African Americans the best possible care to avoid complications," Fauci said.