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African Americans, 15% of NJ's population, make up 24% of state's first 729 COVID-19 deaths: Murphy

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Posted at 8:44 PM, Apr 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-07 20:47:05-04

TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey's African American population has made up a disproportionate amount of the deaths so far during the coronavirus pandemic, State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli confirmed Tuesday.

Persichilli and Gov. Phil Murphy revealed the divide by race of the first 729 people in the Garden State to die of COVID-19 Tuesday. They announced that 60%, or 435, were white, while 24%, or 175, were black or African American. The remaining 16% were listed at 5% Asian and 11% "other."

As of July 1, 2019, New Jersey's population is only 15% black or African American. Caucasians make up 72% of the state's population and Asian Americans are 10%.

"As imperfect as it is, getting the racial breakdown is something we all feel is important," said Gov. Murphy. "That is a meaningfully higher percentage," he said, referring to the number of African American deaths.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said in an interview Tuesday that he and "many black Americans are at higher risk for COVID." This has proven true in statistics from elsewhere in the country. Adams said the CDC “should be, and are tracking this virus by different demographic groups.”

Despite only making up 32% of the population in Louisiana, African-Americans account for 70% of the total number COVID-19 related deaths in the state, according to figures released by Louisiana's health department.

Dr. Anthony Fauci and President Donald Trump both expressed their concern on Tuesday during the White House’s coronavirus task force news briefing.

“We’re doing everything in our power to address this challenge, it's a tremendous challenge. It's terrible,” Trump said Tuesday.

Fauci said that the nature of COVID-19 and how it impacts those with pre-existing conditions is a reason why the virus is particularly more deadly for those in the African-American community. Fauci said that diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and asthma are disproportionally affecting the minority population, especially African-Americans

“Unfortunately, when you look at the predisposing conditions that lead to a bad outcome with the coronavirus, the things that get people to ICU's, that require intubation and often lead to death, they are just those comorbidities that are unfortunately disproportionately prevalent in the African-American population,” Fauci said. “We are very concerned about that, it's very sad, there is nothing we can do about that right now except to try to give them the best possible care to avoid those complications."

Trump and Fauci said they are working with the states to get a better idea of how coronavirus is impacting African-Americans.

Scripps Media's Justin Boggs contributed to this report.