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Local experts weigh in on black communities disproportionate share of COVID-19 deaths

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MADISON (WKOW)-- Numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show 23% of COVID-19 deaths are African Americans even though black people make up 13% of the U.S. population.

UW-Health Doctor Tiffany Green studies the causes and consequences of racial disparities in health.

"We see across the country that Black Americans are dying disproportionately relative to our share of our population, and that is especially true here in Wisconsin unfortunately," Green said.

The disparity is even worse in Wisconsin with DHS reporting 24% of COVID-19 deaths are African American and a black population of seven percent.

Green says there needs to be an understanding as to why black people are more likely to be exposed to COVID-19 in the first place, and one reason is structural discrimination.

"We have a long history of black people being shuffled into occupations that are less likely to have insurance, unsafe working conditions," Green said.

"For example in the midst of this pandemic, black people are much less likely to be able to work at home, they are the essential workers."

Aaron Perry opened a free men's health center in a popular local barbershop. 270 black men joined their support group for COVID-19.

"There's some fear here," Perry said. "Feeling like COVID-19 is actually stalking them."

His organization, Rebalanced Life Wellness Association, focuses on moving forward, starting with policy change.

"Currently we're talking about what can we do about the police, but the police are not the only issue, every other social system was built on the same inequities," Alvin Thomas, UW-Madison Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Human Development and Family Studies, said.

"We want to walk that talk and do more than just say black lives matter, we wan to show that black lives matter by taking care of black lives," Dr. Logan Edwards, UW-Whitewater Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator in the Department of Health, said.

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Karley Marotta

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