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The Pandemic’s Unequal Impact: Not Just a Matter of Race

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A nurse wipes away tears as she stands outside NYU Langone Medical Center on 1st Avenue in Manhattan as New York Police Department (NYPD) Mounted Police and other units came to cheer and thank healthcare workers at 7pm during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, New York, U.S., April 16, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

Researchers may one day manage to explain why New York has suffered so much more intensely from coronavirus than other big cities across the country. It’s not a simplistic matter of race: the nation’s next largest city, Los Angeles, has a higher proportion of people of color–71% as opposed to 56%–but NYC has 16 times the death rate as LA. 

White New Yorkers have more chance of COVID-19 death than African-Americans living anywhere else. Moreover, statistics also indicate men are much more likely to die of coronavirus than women, by a ratio of almost two-to-one–and even more than two-to-one in European countries like Italy. Mysteries remain about this pandemic and why it hits some groups, and some localities, disproportionately.

But we must resist the temptation to explain some of these grim numbers by automatically blaming discrimination and racism.

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