As the U.S. grapples with the loss of lives resulting from coronavirus infections, Black and Hispanic communities are also experiencing a surge in drug overdoses during the pandemic.

New data from the University of Baltimore’s Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program shows that drug overdoses have risen by 18 percent. In addition, overdoses in suburban and rural areas are mirroring those in urban cities. 

The data compared reported overdoses, fatal and nonfatal, in the weeks leading up to coronavirus quarantine measures and in the weeks after.

Health professionals believe the uptick can be attributed to the lack of traditional support networks that were disrupted due to the pandemic’s quarantine mandates. 

“We tell people not to isolate, that’s bad, it’s a red flag” for people coping with addiction, said substance abuse counselor Jennifer Austin, during an interview with NPR. “The pandemic comes and we’re literally told that we’re supposed to be isolating, like, stay away from people.”

COVID-19 and the addiction crisis are hitting communities of color hardest, highlighting decades-long issues of underfunding and under-resourcing of the public healthcare system. Finding help, like affordable access to health care and addiction treatment, has become even more scarce during the pandemic.

State and federal agencies have responded to the overdose surge in recent months by making drug counseling through telemedicine more available. But, by the same token, addiction services and public health are facing more cuts as the pandemic continues.  

MORE ON THE PANDEMIC

A recent study by the National Urban League finds that African Americans are becoming infected with the coronavirus at a rate three times that of whites and they are twice as likely to die from COVID-19.

The report, called “State of Black America Unmasked” reveals this country’s stark differences in social and economic institutions and paints a “bleak picture” of the pandemic and people of color, the league’s CEO, Marc Morial, said.

The new analysis, provided by Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity and included in the Urban League’s report, reveals that the coronavirus infection rate for Blacks is 62 per 10,000, compared with 23 per 10,000 for whites. The infection rate for Latinos stands at 73 infections per 10,000.

In addition, African Americans were less likely to get tested or treated than whites early in the pandemic and are more than four times as likely to require hospitalization as a result of contracting the disease.

After a White House task force report warning that the spread of the coronavirus in Georgia is “widespread and expanding,” Republican Governor Brian Kemp signed a new order over the weekend that would allow local governments to mandate masks, but only on publicly-owned property, not at private businesses.

The governor stopped short of issuing a statewide mask mandate but urged residents to wear face coverings and take other safety precautions.  

The restaurant industry may take another blow soon as Cheesecake Factory, Denny’s and at least a half-dozen more chains face bankruptcy amid coronavirus

Bloomin’ Brands and Denny’s Corp., owners of Outback Steakhouse and Denny’s, are the largest publicly traded American restaurant companies that would be most likely to default on loans. Applebee’s and The Cheesecake Factory also are on the shortlist. California Pizza Kitchen recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. 

The restaurant and food service industry has lost nearly $120 billion due to pandemic.

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