Letter to the Editor

Acknowledging and Addressing COVID-19 Health Disparities in the American South

Authors: Jennifer Mandelbaum, MPH


To the Editor: The COVID-19 crisis escalated rapidly; between March 1 and March 31, 2020, the number of confirmed cases rose from 30 to >180,000.1 As the novel coronavirus spreads, reports suggest that the American South may be hit harder than other areas in the United States. For example, southeast Louisiana has one of the highest COVID-19 case fatality rates in the nation.2 Southerners are more likely than people in other regions to live in poverty, have chronic illnesses such as diabetes mellitus and obesity, and be uninsured.3

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1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Cases in U.S. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/cases-in-us.html. Updated April 3, 2020. Accessed April 4, 2020.
2. The Data Center. Monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic in New Orleans and Louisiana. https://www.datacenterresearch.org/covid-19-data-and-information/covid-19-data/#confirmed-cases-and-deaths-in-new-orleans. Published 2020. Accessed April 4, 2020.
3. Artiga S, Damica A. Health and health coverage in the south: a data update. https://www.kff.org/disparities-policy/issue-brief/health-and-health-coverage-in-the-south-a-data-update. Published 2016. Accessed April 4, 2020.
4. DeSilver D. As coronavirus spreads, which U.S. workers have paid sick leave-and which don’? https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/03/12/as-coronavirus-spreads-which-u-s-workers-have-paid-sick-leave-and-which-dont. Published 2020. Accessed April 2, 2020.
5. Hahn RA, Truman BI, Williams DR. Civil rights as determinants of public health and racial and ethnic health equity: health care, education, employment, and housing in the United States. SSM Popul Health 2018;4:17-24.
6. NC Department of Health and Human Services. COVID-19 North Carolina dashboard. https://www.ncdhhs.gov/divisions/public-health/covid19/covid-19-nc-case-count#by-race/ethnicity. Published 2020. Accessed April 4, 2020.
7. Devakumar D, Shannon G, Bhopal SS, et al. Racism and discrimination in COVID-19 responses. Lancet 2020;394:1194.