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Tipsheet

Surgeon General Explains Why Coronavirus Is Taking a Greater Toll on Minority Communities

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams explained why the coronavirus is taking a greater toll on African American and Hispanic communities during Friday’s press briefing.

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Noting that he spoke with 400 leaders in the black community to "discuss some of the alarming trends we’re observing regarding the impact of COVID-19 on communities of colors," Adams said in New York City the majority of deaths are among Hispanics and in Milwaukee County, though blacks represent only 25 percent of the population, they are nearly 50 percent of the cases and 75 percent of the deaths. "So what's going on?" he said. "Well, it's alarming but it's not surprising that people of color have a greater burden of chronic health conditions." 

He talked about how African Americans and Native Americans develop high blood pressure at younger ages and are less likely to have it under control, while asthma affects Puerto Rican and African American populations.

Adams then pulled out an inhaler and said he's had one in his pocket for 40 years "for fear of having a fatal asthma attack."

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"This history...it does not have to be our nation's future," he said. 

He urged communities of color to follow task force guidelines on how to slow the spread of coronavirus, discussing social distancing, washing one's hands, and avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. 

"And call your friends and family. Check in on your mother, she wants to hear from you right now, and speaking of mothers, we need you to do this if not for yourself, then for your abuela, do it for your granddaddy, do it for your big momma, do it for you pop pop," he urged. 

"This epidemic is a tragedy but it will be all the more tragic if we fail to recognize and address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 ... on communities of color," he added.

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One reporter took issue with how Adams described family members and wanted to know what he had to say to people who were offended by his comments. Fortunately, he didn't fall for the gotcha question.

"I use language that is used in my family," he said. 

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