Wednesday, April 8, 2020

No Surprises

Coronavirus infectious disease 2019 is causing proportionally more illnesses and deaths in the Black community than in the White community.

And this is surprising to people?

It was understood when the epidemic was still confined to China that people in relatively ill health and with potential aggravating conditions were more likely to die from the disease (and/or the immune response to the disease) than other people. Some recent data from here in the United States points to 89% of people hospitalized for treatment had one or more underlying health conditions. And it's not as if the knowledge that, here in the United States, that Black Americans have more aggravating conditions than the population at large is new. It's been widely known, and accepted as true (almost to the point of earning the label "common knowledge") for decades.

So the question that I'm curious about is why didn't anyone appear to see this coming? Part of it, I suspect, is that the disease spread models that were being used simply didn't capture that sort of information. I don't know what sort of information went into them, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was basically information on population density and how many contacts any given person would reasonable be expected to have in a day.

As for myself, it occurred to me that this could be the case (I am Black, after all), but I'll admit that I was more concerned with how the infection would play out in the local unsheltered homeless population. A stay-home order is one thing. But when "home" is in a large encampment of homeless people along the side of an expressway, it becomes quite another. So I was expecting to hear about the disease tearing through that community. Which likely would have resulted in a racial disparity of its own, given the demographics of homelessness here in the greater Puget Sound region.

I wonder if part of the problem that the United States is having with this outbreak is an inability to look ahead. And what the next predictable facet of this to be missed will be.

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