Racial bias in healthcare affects Black people disproportionately. As a global health pandemic spreads, doctors fear Black communities don’t have access to adequate coronavirus tests.
BuzzFeed News reports that a group of Virginia-based doctors—Dr. Cameron Webb, Dr. Taison Bell, Dr. Leigh-Ann Webb, and Dr. Ebony Hilton—is requesting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization release data about testing in underserved areas.
The concern with current public information is the absence of stats broken down by race and ethnicity. They fear that Black people aren’t tested. As a result, they are not being treated.
“I want to make sure that in this pandemic, that Black and Brown people are treated in the same way and that these tests are made available in the same pattern as for white people,” Dr. Ebony Hilton, an associate professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Virginia, told BuzzFeed.
The public has already witnessed that testing is particularly vulnerable to bias. Celebrities such as Idris Elba, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Durant, and others have been prioritized for testing, although they are asymptomatic. Meanwhile, media reports and social media users’ stories show that the general public has great difficulty getting tested due to lack of supplies even if their health deteriorates.
“I don’t want to speak about Black Americans as if we’re all the same,” Dr. Cameron Webb, who is running for Congress in Virginia, said. “But there’s a lot of reasons not to trust the government to be fair in circumstances like these.”
To ensure that racial bias doesn’t impede coronavirus testing and treatment of Black people, Dr. Leigh-Ann Webb, an emergency room doctor at UVA, suggests that we desperately need advocates.
“The people who are not being tested, if testing is warranted, they need advocates,” she said. “And as much as they could advocate for themselves, having people specifically who are interested in health disparities, to have people who have a seat at the table advocating for you helps.”
Currently, the CDC reports there are 15,219 COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and 201 total deaths. While the government scrambles to bail out big businesses, pass a major stimulus bill, and find housing for the homeless, they must also ensure that testing kits are available to minority communities when self-isolating is not enough.
Testing decisions are at the discretion of state and local health departments and/or individual clinicians, says the CDC. Therefore, if you are feeling coronavirus symptoms, call your medical healthcare provider immediately for a test. Also, if you believe your community does not have access to coronavirus testing, call your local representative.