U.S. Bishops Decry ‘Disproportionate’ Impact of Coronavirus on Black Americans

A stretcher is moved from an AMR ambulance to the Life Care Center of Kirkland where one associate and one resident were diagnosed with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) according to a statement released by the facility in Kirkland, Washington on February 29, 2020. - The first fatality from the novel …
Jason Redmond/AFP/Getty Images

Leaders of the U.S. Bishops’ conference (USCCB) have issued a statement denouncing the coronavirus’ “disproportionate” effects on black Americans and the “systemic structural conditions” underlying it.

“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,” the bishops state in a May 4 message.

In their communiqué, the bishops suggest that the reason for the disproportionate impact of the virus on the black community relates to entrenched structures of racism in American society.

“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,” they state.

Among the document’s signatories are Bishop Shelton J. Fabre chairman of the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, Archbishop Paul S. Coakley, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Archbishop Nelson J. Perez, chairman of the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, and Bishop Joseph N. Perry, chairman of the Subcommittee on African American Affairs.

The release of bishops’ statement coincided with the Joe Biden campaign rollout of a broad policy proposal aimed at “rooting out systemic racism from our laws, our policies, our institutions, and our hearts.”

“The truth is, African Americans can never have a fair shot at the American Dream so long as entrenched disparities are still allowed to chip away at opportunity,” Mr. Biden wrote in a statement Monday announcing his “Lift Every Voice” proposal.

“The data we’ve seen so far suggests that African Americans are dying from COVID-19 at a far higher rate than whites,” Biden stated, and “the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 have exposed — and cruelly exacerbated — the disparities long faced by African Americans.”

Blacks in the U.S. “are less likely to have a job they can do from home, forcing them to make the difficult choice between their health and a paycheck,” Biden noted.

“Long-standing systemic inequalities may also be contributing to this disparity — including the fact that African Americans are more likely to be uninsured,” he said.

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