WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 03: U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams speaks during a White House Coronavirus … [+]
Topline: During Friday’s White House briefing, Surgeon General Jerome Adams told Americans of color to follow safety procedures during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic for “your Big Mama,” including to “avoid alcohol, tobacco and drugs.”
- In addressing people of color, Adams, who is black, recommended following the same practices often emphasized during the briefings, like staying six feet away from others and washing hands frequently, but added they should “avoid alcohol, tobacco and drugs.”
- “We need you to do this, if not for yourself, then for your abuela, do it for your granddaddy, do it for your Big Mama, do it for your pop pop,” Adams said.
- PBS White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor asked Adams to address people concerned that he implied behavior may be the reason for the higher death rate. He replied that everyone should “absolutely” avoid alcohol, tobacco and drugs, and that language like Big Mama “was not meant to be offensive, that’s the language we use [in my family].”
- Adams was addressing how the coronavirus has disproportionately affected black and Latino people, emphasizing that “we do not think people of color are biologically or genetically predisposed to get COVID-19…but they are socially predisposed to coronavirus exposure and have a higher incidence of the very diseases that put you at risk for severe complications of coronavirus.”
- In New York City, the epicenter of the coronavirus, black and Latino people are dying at twice the rate as white people, likely due to factors such as air pollution and density of cities, jobs that don’t allow teleworking, pre-existing medical conditions that also illustrate racial disparities and denial of tests because of inherent biases, according to the New York Times.
- Addressing chronic diseases, Adams said, “I’ve been carrying around an inhaler in my pocket for 40 years out of fear of having a fatal asthma attack,” further saying, “this epidemic is a tragedy but it will be all the more tragic if we fail to recognize and address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 and an array of other diseases and risk factors on communities of color.”
Crucial Quote: The coronavirus task force has previously addressed the racial discrepancies happening during the pandemic. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, said during Tuesday’s briefing, “Yet again, when you have a situation like the coronavirus, they are suffering disproportionately…So when all this is over—and, as we’ve said, it will end—we will get over coronavirus, but there will still be health disparities, which we really do need to address in the African-American community.”
Tangent: Another factor in the discrepancy is access to healthcare. The Census Bureau reported that 8.5% of people were uninsured in 2018. Over 16 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the past three weeks. While workers that had employment-based health insurance can enroll in the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, as a “qualifying life event,” others without insurance can no longer enroll in the program as the period to do so ended December 15. On March 31, Politico reported that the Trump administration decided against reopening enrollment in the ACA. The federal government oversees health insurance in over two-thirds of states.
Key Background: Adams was confirmed as the 20th Surgeon General of the country in August 2017 with a focus on tackling the country’s opioid epidemic. An anesthesiologist, he previously served as Indiana’s state health commissioner during an HIV outbreak that was the result of injections from prescription opioids. He was credited for convincing then Governor Mike Pence to create a needle exchange program.
The U.S. leads the world in confirmed coronavirus cases with 491,358 out of the global total of 1,681,964. New York City is now the epicenter of the virus, with 172,334 cases, more than any country outside the U.S. Total deaths in the country rose to 18,316, second only to Italy.