ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Dozens of people participated in a virtual town hall Thursday to ask questions and listen in to a conversation addressing racial health disparity and why African Americans nationwide are being hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak.
The town hall was hosted by Orlando City commissioners Regina Hill and Bakari Burns and included a number of panelists from the medical and mental health fields.
“(There’s) a lot of stress during these times and we want to encourage individuals to stay informed,” Burns said.
Burns said many African Americans are more susceptible to the virus because of preexisting health conditions. He said another issue they face is a lack of access to testing and quality health care.
He said he’s happy to hear of more COVID-19 testing sites coming to the west side of Orange County, where many Africans American residents live. He also wants members of the African American community to be aware of how the virus can affect people of color and may perhaps even lead to a deadly situation.
“What we’re seeing is access to care. People start to seek care at a later stage so often times, more resources are needed to bring their health back up to optimal care,” Burns said.
The latest statistics in Orange County show African Americans make up about 12% of the county’s 1,011 confirmed coronavirus cases. Burns said nationwide, African Americans contracting and even dying from the virus is becoming more common.
The latest batch of numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows African American patients make up about 30% of the nation’s total confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Because of those numbers, Burns is stressing now more than ever, that people turn to self care and even therapy.
“In general, I believe African Americans don’t seek mental health counseling or mental health care like we should,” Burns said.
Dr. B. Lee Green, who also participated in the virtual town hall, said economic statuses also plays a role.
“Minorities tend to have lower incomes and those who are at the lower end of the financial spectrum tend to struggle to stay healthy,” Green said.