On April 10, Surgeon General Jerome Adams made public remarks about how the coronavirus pandemic is disproportionately affecting minority groups in the U.S. He is one of the few federal level health officials who have displayed the courage to acknowledge the outbreak’s impact on communities of color.

While it appears that black communities are being harder hit by the outbreak, robust demographic information has been a missing piece to the understanding of the virus. According to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently, 65 percent of the cases had no specified race.

Kristen Clarke, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said it was “astounding” that the CDC has not collected more complete demographic data. “The department of Health and Human Services has not offered a concrete plan about how it intends to tackle the problem in front of us,” Clarke told reporters. “The fact [is] they do not have race information tied to all of their data. We know that our communities are being ravaged by COVID and the federal government has a role to play.”

Although there is limited data on the disease’s impact by race in the U.S., we do have some information that reinforces evidence that African Americans have an increased risk of both getting COVID-19 and not surviving.

Data from Michigan shows that while African Americans make up 14 percent of the state’s population, they represent 40 percent of the coronavirus deaths in the state.

At the time of this writing, African Americans represent 39 percent of those that have died in Illinois where the black community represents 14.6 percent of the population. Preliminary data from North Carolina, Georgia and Kansas confirm similar ratios.

In early April, Delegate Nick Mosby led a group of state legislators in an effort to urge Governor Hogan to instruct the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) to release racial and geographical grouping data. By April 9, MDH released a report disclosing that black residents make up 52 percent of coronavirus-related deaths, although black residents comprise 31% of our state’s population. Gov. Hogan requested that the department continue to publish all data available on racial and ethnic breakdowns of COVID-19 cases.

Dr. Lisa Cooper, a medical expert and social epidemiologist with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, noted that broader social disadvantage is the reason black people are worse hit. She stated, “As a group, African Americans in the U.S. have higher rates of poverty, housing and food insecurity, unemployment or underemployment, and chronic medical conditions, and disabilities.”

Despite the missing data, many of us already acknowledge the health inequities resulting from economic, social, political and economic forces (also known as the social determinants of health). The coronavirus experience has simply magnified the systemic disparities that exist as a result of where we live, what we earn, how we are educated and how we access health care.

Unless we champion public health as an essential public good, we fail to preserve the American ideals of fairness, justice, and compassion for all. For those that do not share these values, or interpret them differently, they extend the risk to a national recovery. Constructing an expanded definition of public health, and addressing the non-medical variables that impact 80 percent of health outcomes, are not only the right things to do but also imperatives if we want to flatten the curve of COVID-19 in a sustainable manner.

(29) comments


"This is the direction the world is going in at the present time. In our world, there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph, and self-abasement. The sex instinct will be eradicated. We shall abolish the orgasm. There will be no loyalty except loyalty to the Party. But always there will be the intoxication of power. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who's helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face, forever. The moral to be drawn from this dangerous nightmare situation is a simple one: don't let it happen. It depends on you." - from George Orwell.

Stop Dem/oralisation!


This is an excellent, well articulated op-ed. This and Robert Reich's column on the same page paint a picture of what must be transformed.


I agree barry.

I also think 'Tm' (immediately below) makes a very good point. We've seen that the rate of infection is higher in cities. No surprise there. City residents are more likely to be people of color. Therefore, there is a good chance that at least some of the disparity is due a higher percentage of African Americans living in inner city areas with high population density.


I completely agree. Great job, Delegate Lewis Young, I’m truly glad I voted for you!


It would be interesting to see the statewide statistics cited in the letter broken down into more localized areas, perhaps by county. I imagine that most covid cases and deaths are concentrated in cities where social distancing is much more difficult. Demographics in cities can be very different from a state overall. I have no idea if a large racial disparity would be clear if you look at more localized statistics, but I don’t think statewide stats are the best indicator.


Excellent point Tm. [thumbup]


Actually, more like using a nationwide average and localized data. Makes the numbers look very different than using proper statistical controls.


According to the last paragraph, if you disagree with Del. Young or have a different opinion than her, you are causing health problems to continue. More self-righteous "I and only I know best" from a liberal politician looking to inflict further damage on the health care industry. It is the government mandated and mismanged Medicare, Medicaid, ACA, and heavy handed one size fits all over regulation that has much of the problems with today health care system.


Karen Young is highlighting the broader issues of both racial inequities and poverty, and the continuing tragedies that are raining down in America as the pandemic continues to populations suffering both. She has good and reputable company, from the health care providers working in America's worst-hit cities, to the first responders, with epidemiologists at Bloomberg/JHU, and added data on death rates coming out of Illinois, Michigan, Georgia and North Carolina. There are really no surprises here in the information she is providing, or in the tragic conclusion that our health care system, and our failures of existing public health programs in the US, will continue to add to America's burgeoning infection and death rates. The only surprising thing? That so many continue in their tiresome beliefs and ignorant defense that facts hold no significance, and that there is no crisis that existed in most vulnerable populations, even well before Covid 19 took hold. Proudly brought to you, in part, by the cowardly do-nothing GOP leadership, actively "working" oh so courageously for a full decade to accomplish their sole "major health care program for all", which was their failed "repeal and replace" of the ACA. Just one glaring example of the inability of our nation to come to terms with the "class-system" (or is it "caste-system"?) of access to health care services in America. Desperate and power-hungry cowards, whose deliberate and calculated inaction has contributed to the tragic impact to populations denied access to even basic preventative and general health care services. There is a real cost. It's playing out now, for those who care to see it.


Ms. Young,

It seems everybody from both sides of the aisle share a similar opinion of your political opportunism. I was not going to read the article but I was curious. I may have missed something but I do not believe you had one statistic that related to the area you serve.

You are the quintessential MD. Democrat politician. If there is an positive that will come from this virus I hope it involves major changes in Md politics. Nothing personal.just business.


Kristen Clarke, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said it was “astounding” that the CDC has not collected more complete demographic data.

Other than asking the States to collect the data, what other options are there? Any information about how many people have contracted it and survived? That could be an interesting study to determine what, if any, factors are at work there.


As usual you can count on the Dems to either talk about issues in terms of race or economics. It is interesting in this case that the dems are trying to push better access to medical care via a Medicare type solution a la Bernie. If that is the solution, then how does Ms. Young explain the deaths of people over 65 on Medicare? Once on Medicare isn’t the access to treatment the same? Ms. Young’s agenda is clear push the discussion towards the socialization of everything.


People over 65 have age related physical illnesses and comorbidities. Did you not know that? Modern medicine still has no cure for aging, I’m afraid.

Why you are against all Americans having access to decent health care is a mystery.


I’m not. I am not for the nanny state you folks endorse.


Please explain. What is a nanny state? A little detail please. What exactly are you not for that “you folks” are for?? Thanks.


Cold-hearted nannies that rule the night

Remove the colours from our sight

Red is grey is yellow white

But they decide which is right

And which is an illusion


Mr. Wheatley, [thumbup]


No reply xJacky1? Surprise, Surprise, Surprise. 😂🤣


A nanny state is what you espouse dough. Free for all, government regulates every aspect of your life so as to protect you from yourself. Everybody is equal nobody is rewarded for being exceptional because it might offend someone like you who maybe isn’t so exceptional.


Interesting observation, XJacky, and excellent point. But I do feel very strongly that we should have a national health-care system.


I agree francesca. Actually we already do have partial national health care -- Medicare, Medicaid, and the VA hospitals are all systems paid for by the gov't -- they just aren't currently open to everyone.

I do think Bernie and Elizabeth need to back off on FORCING everyone to join "Medicare for All". I see no reason why there cannot be choices. My guess is that due to Medicare's low overhead -- no corporate jets; no 8-figure CEO salaries; and no "golden parachutes" -- and no profit motive, Medicare for All will be the better deal for most people, but why not allow them to have choices?

At least until Medicare puts the for-profit insurance corporations out of business...


It would be an adequate letter if you actually knew and cared about what you were writing. The true definition of never let a good crisis get away.


Take your identity politics and throw them in the garbage where they belong. The most racist people I have ever encountered are the ones that constantly talk about race.




[thumbup][thumbup]zJacky1......Young and her ilk are like a hammer looking for a nail.


What is her “ilk”. What are people like Karen Young for that you are not for?? The RRR(RadicalRightRepublicans) keep accusing the “LEFT” or the “LIBS” of being “for” THINGS?? but never say what those THINGS?? are. Please give a hint of what the THINGS?? are that you RRR(RadicalRightRepublicans) are not for. nanny states? what??


bosco? At a loss for words?? 🙊


"bosco? At a loss for words??".....never, Phy. I was standing outside Costco with a sign saying "Will Trade Toilet Paper For Meat"

I am not what you call the RRR. However, in today's politically charged climate since the liberals have moved so far left toward socialism, my independent, middle of the road approach makes me look like a radical conservative.

Stay safe and keep washing those hands. [ninja]



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