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Stories and information in our region on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Racial Disparity In Coronavirus Deaths Extends To Suburban Long Island

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Bebeto Matthews
/
AP
A man wears a mask and a bandana to protect himself against COVID-19 in New York. The coronavirus is cutting a particularly devastating swath through an already vulnerable population, black Americans.

Data from the New York State Department of Health shows the number of black Long Islanders who die from the coronavirus is disproportionate to that of white residents—as is the case in New York City and the state overall.  

Black residents make up nearly 12% of Nassau County’s population and 8% of Suffolk County, yet they account for 18% and 11%, respectively, of virus-related deaths.

Elaine Gross, president of the Long Island-based nonprofit ERASE Racism, says this is not unexpected because structural racism against minority communities existed before the pandemic.

“Historical and ongoing impediments to equity that places African Americans and the Latinx community, too, in a position of being more susceptible under COVID-19.”

She says the disparity may be linked to who has access to healthcare and who holds jobs that require leaving the house like grocery or convenience store workers.

“It’s more likely that African Americans are in positions working jobs where they are continuing to have to go out.”

More testing sites are being opened in Riverhead, Brentwood and Huntington to reach immigrant and minority residents.

There is also a growing need for interpreters and translators at testing facilities and hospitals. 

Read the latest on WSHU’s coronavirus coverage here.

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Jay Shah is a former Long Island bureau chief at WSHU.
A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.
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