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Research must discover cause of imbalance

People the government classifies as black or African American are being killed by COVID-19 at a rate far higher than their proportion of the U.S. population as a whole. It is a trend that has been noticeable for several weeks.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 21.2 percent of the people who died from COVID-19 were black. The Census Bureau indicates blacks comprise 13.4 percent of the population.

By itself, the numbers are conclusive of only one thing — a compelling need to investigate them scientifically and in great detail.

Merely comparing the two percentages is dangerous, simply because COVID-19 has not penetrated every corner of the country uniformly. It may be more widespread in areas where blacks are more than 13.4 percent of the population.

Reports indicate that blacks are 22 percent of New York City’s population, but as of mid-April, they constituted 28 percent of fatalities from the virus. In Chicago, where blacks are 30 percent of the population, they comprise 70 percent of those killed by COVID-19. In Louisiana, blacks are 32 percent of the population but 70 percent of those dead from the disease.

More research, these comparisons and the ensuing search for reasons behind any imbalance needs to encompass more than blacks and whites. Another CDC number shows that 16.5 percent of COVID-19 deaths are Hispanic or Latino — who are 18.3 percent of the nation’s population.

There has been much speculation about the apparent imbalance in COVID-19’s deadliness.

Some worry it reflects a lower quality of health care provided to black Americans. Some suggest economic factors affect their susceptibility to the disease. Another possibility is that differences in physiology among the races may be involved.

Again, jumping to conclusions would not be wise. The first step must be to determine if the COVID-19 death rate among black and Hispanic Americans is greater than for other races — as it appears to be.

If that is so, we must find out why, even if the answer is something we do not wish to learn about ourselves as a nation.

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