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Mayor says virus has hit black, Hispanic New Yorkers hard

A woman leaves Elmhurst Hospital Center after being tested for COVID-19 or coronavirus during the current viral pandemic, Tuesday, April 7, 2020, in the Queens borough of New York. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.
Kathy Willens, Associated Press

NEW YORK — New York City’s death toll from the coronavirus has been disproportionately high in black and Hispanic communities, and the city is starting an outreach campaign for those residents, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.

“We’re seeing folks who have struggled before really being hit particularly hard,” de Blasio said at a City Hall briefing.

Preliminary data indicates that black people account for 28% of the city’s COVID-19 death toll, even though they are just 22% of the city’s population. Hispanic people account for 34% of the city’s virus death toll and 29% of its population.

De Blasio said of the racial disparities: “It’s sick. It’s troubling. It’s wrong. And we are going to fight back with everything we’ve got.”

Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the city’s health commissioner, noted that the communities that have been hit the hardest by the virus “have had higher rates of underlying chronic illness” than other New Yorkers.

State health officials reported Wednesday that nearly 4,600 people have been killed by the virus in New York City. The city’s new round of data is based on a smaller number of cases, about 1,600, where the race and ethnicity of the victim is known.

De Blasio said the city would embark on a multimillion-dollar public service campaign to reach non-English speaking communities with information about the virus. The state also announced an awareness campaign to include hard-to-reach communities.

Cuomo, speaking separately later in the day, said he was troubled by the disparities and will order more testing in minority communities.

“Why is it the poorest people always pay the highest price?” Cuomo asked. “But let’s figure it out. Let’s do the work. Let’s do the research. Let’s learn from this moment.”

When the city fatality figures are adjusted to reflect the age makeup of ethnic groups within the city’s population, the disparities are more stark. The age-adjusted death rate for both blacks and Hispanics was more than double the rate for non-Hispanic whites.

Asians, meanwhile, experienced a much lower rate of fatalities: 8.4 per 100,000 residents, compared with 10.2 for non-Hispanic whites, 19.8 for non-Hispanic blacks and 22.8 for Hispanics.

Although the figures released Wednesday show racial disparities in who has died of the virus, the disparities are not as great as those that have been reported elsewhere in the country.