NEW YORK (AP) — 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, while Hispanic people are 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 Tuesday that more than 4,000 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.
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.
Figures released by Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services show 40% of those who have died from COVID-19 are black in a state where African Americans are just 14% of the population.
In TV appearances earlier Wednesday, de Blasio acknowledged that the city’s official coronavirus statistics have missed hundreds of people who died at home without ever being tested for the virus, and said the city would start including such victims in its COVID-19 tally.
“The blunt truth is coronavirus is driving these very tragic deaths,” de Blasio said on CNN’s “New Day.” He added, “We’re not talking about, you know, 10 people, 20 people. We’re talking about something like 100, 200 people per day.”
The city’s Fire Department has recorded as many as 200 deaths at home daily in recent weeks, far more than the average 25 deaths at home before the pandemic.
De Blasio said the city would start including in its official tally of deaths people who died at home without a test.
Speaking on Fox 5’s “Good Day New York,” he said, “What I’ve said to our health care experts is we should just acknowledge this is overwhelmingly being driven by the coronavirus. Not every death, but clearly the vast majority, are related to the coronavirus. We should count them as part of the overall very painful count.”