HARRISBURG, Pa. - State leaders say the pandemic has amplified health disparities and disproportionately impacted some minority groups.
According to U.S. Census data, roughly 12% of Pennsylvania's population is Black. But according to state health data, which has racial and ethnic breakdowns for about 60% of coronavirus deaths in the state, they make up about 21% of deaths.
National data show a similar trend.
"The COVID epidemic has been a great amplifier of inequality," said Lt. Governor John Fetterman.
Fetterman heads a task force focused on COVID health disparity, and said minorities also had higher rates of infection, likely tied to working in essential places such as grocery stores.
"Overwhelmingly, our front line essential employees are coming from these communities of color. They work at grocery stores. They work at the post office. They work on the front line. They are disproportionately representative of that. They live in neighborhoods that are much less likely to have access to proximate healthcare, and any number of issues," Fetterman said.
Issues the task force identified include employment, education, access to health care and transportation.
"Economic opportunity is a health issue," said Health Secretary Rachel Levine. "Education is a health issue. Housing is a health issue. Transportation is a health issue."
"Absolutely, the social detriments of health and poverty absolutely play a role in the numbers that we're seeing," said Melissa Miranda, CEO of Neighborhood Health Centers of the Lehigh Valley.
Miranda said minority groups already face inequity in terms of access to healthcare, coronavirus aside.
"They are already at a place of inequity in terms of access to healthcare. They are more likely to not be able to have that same level of healthcare, more likely to be overweight, have hypertension or diabetes," Miranda said.
Those underlying issues put someone at a higher risk of having serious complications from COVID-19.