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African Americans 3 to 6 times more likely to get COVID-19, expert says

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Posted at 7:19 PM, Apr 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-13 22:23:38-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia Department of Health says 130 people in the state have died and more than 830 people are currently hospitalized in the COVID-19 crisis.

When you break the numbers down by race, health leaders say almost 30 percent of the state's COVID-19 case count is white, while African Americans represent 16 percent. However, in 45 percent of the state's cases, race is not reported.

As a result, VCU Massey Cancer Center Director Dr. Robert Winn said the ratio may be much different.

"This was not unexpected. It is unfortunate more than it is unexpected," Winn said.

Winn is newest director at the cancer center.

"Little bit over the first 90 days on the job and this has probably been the most interesting start to a new job I have ever had in my entire life," Winn said.

The health expert has been studying COVID-19's impact on our nation's society since the outbreak.

"The pandemic as a whole has really gripped every part of America," Winn added.

He said that African Americans are more likely to be infected by the virus than other races.

"In some cases, three to six times more than their white counterparts," Winn said.

VCU Massey Cancer Center Director Dr. Robert Winn
VCU Massey Cancer Center Director Dr. Robert Winn

According to an analysis by the Associated Press, more than 40 percent of the nation's coronavirus deaths have been African Americans.

Winn believes there are several reasons why African Americans are more likely to contract the virus. One is poor housing.

"Sometimes you have small areas in which you're putting a large amount of people," Winn said. "How do we keep social distancing from that?"

He also said African Americans hold more essential jobs and can't work from home.

"That's actually adding fuel to this fire and we are almost inadvertently putting a class of people on the front lines that will serve our needs as a trucker or what have you to serve our needs," Winn said.

He adds that a lack of access to healthcare and information also play a factor, as well as underlying health issues.

"I think we should be aware that those are connected to almost a system that actually in some ways have existed for some time that we will ultimately need to address post-COVID," Winn said.

Depend on CBS 6 News and WTVR.com for complete coverage of this important developing story.

COVID-19 Precautions

Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.

COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.

Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.Avoid non-essential travel.