‘We need more physicians and providers who look like us’: Local leaders discuss racial disparity of COVID-19

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — City leaders aimed to answer the question of why when it comes to the racial disparity of COVID-19 in our communities, and what people can do to change it at a virtual town hall Thursday night.

Nationwide data shows that minority groups see harsher impacts from COVID-19.

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“What we can tell is that it seems to affect the minority community, particularly the black community much more severely than other race groups, said NHRMC primary care doctor Andres Afanador.

According to the CDC, data from 580 patients hospitalized with lab-confirmed COVID-19 found that 45% were white, compared to 55% in minority communities.

Death rates in New York show more than twice as many African-American deaths compared to Caucasians.



“African Americans and black and brown communities, we are over-represented in those instances where we cannot afford to stay home and we do not have those quality jobs where we can work remotely,” said NHRMC nurse practitioner LeShonda Wallace.

A virtual town hall hosted by Wilmington City Councilmembers Clifford Barnett and Kevin Spears aimed to address questions and concerns from these minority communities and separate fact from fiction.

“The reason masks are important are protecting you from spraying your aerosols which is how coronavirus or COVID-19 is transmitted, that’s one of the big ways,” Afanador said. “But is also reduces slightly the likelihood that you get it from someone else.”

The panel included staff from New Hanover Regional Medical Center, the county’s health preparedness coordinator, Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo, leaders of the NAACP and others.

One recurring topic was a lack of access or distrust of healthcare among minority communities.

“We need more physicians and providers who look like us,” Afanador said. “We want people to trust their healthcare workers.”

As our state begins to reopen, those who spoke wanted to drive home the point that this pandemic is not over.

“There was some discussion about the ability of churches to hold service,” said New Hanover County Health Preparedness Coordinator Lisa Brown. “I would make sure and caution everybody that if that’s something that you’re thinking about, definitely look at the guidance and put all of the safety processes in place. And just because you can may not mean that you should.”

To re-watch the town hall in its entirety, click here.