Surgeon General Jerome Adams took to the podium at Friday’s White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing to explain why the virus has had such a devastating affect on black and latino communities.
Adams said the trends are “alarming” but not terribly surprising given that “people of color have a greater burden of chronic health conditions.”
“African Americans and Native Americans develop high blood pressure at much younger ages, and it’s less likely to be under control, and does greater harm to their organs,” he explained. “Puerto Ricans have higher rates of asthma and black boys are three times as likely to die of asthma as their white counterparts.”
He even pulled out his own inhaler and said he’s been carrying it around for 40 years out of fear of dying from a fatal asthma attack.
But to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), the real problem is “inequity.”
“Obviously there are certain things we can do to make sure that pre-existing conditions don’t exist, but ultimately, it’s inequity that’s the pre-existing condition. It’s the inequality that’s the pre-existing condition,” the congresswoman said. “And you can’t just go to someone and tell them, hey, you should have had health care this whole time when you’re working, you know, when you’re working an hourly job and your employer doesn’t give it to you. You know, a lot of these pre-existing conditions have to do with the inability to access quality health care, the inability to afford quality health care, because we live in a country that continues to have a for-profit health care system unlike the rest of the developed world.”
She also knocked the surgeon general for his reminders to minority communities about how to stay healthy—reinforcing social distancing guidelines, hand washing, and avoiding the use of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.
“It’s so funny how this pandemic was — when it was impacting — when it was impacting the elderly, when it was impacting all sorts of people, we didn’t talk about personal responsibility. We only started talking about, you know, you know, talking personal responsibility over contracting coronavirus when we started talking about black Americans contracting it at a higher rate.”