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Data from US south shows African Americans hit hardest by Covid-19

The coronavirus is disproportionately infecting and killing African Americans across much of the south, a region where black Americans are more likely to live in poverty and suffer from chronic disease, a Guardian analysis of several southern states reveals.

Louisiana, a major US hotspot, was the first southern state to categorize Covid-19 deaths by race. On Monday Governor John Bel Edwards announced that a shocking 70% of deaths were among African Americans, despite making up only 33% of the state’s population. The virus has spread to nearly every parish in the state, but the worst of the outbreak has been focused on New Orleans, a majority-black city with one of the country’s highest metro poverty rates.

In Georgia, an incomplete data picture still shows African Americans – who make up 33% of the state’s population, compared with 60% for whites – are being hit disproportionately hard by the virus.

On Wednesday Georgia’s department of public health began releasing the racial breakdown of confirmed coronavirus cases. Twenty per cent of the 9,901 confirmed coronavirus cases are black, compared with 15% who are white. But the vast majority of cases – 64% – are of an “unknown race”.

A spokesperson said the agency was working to retroactively collect the missing information on race.

Mississippi’s department of health has yet to release any information on the racial breakdown of coronavirus’s impact. But in an emailed statement a spokesperson said: “At this time, the African American community seems to be hit hard.”

In Alabama, a similar story is playing out.

Data released on Tuesday by the state’s department of public health showed black Alabamians are being infected and killed by the virus at a disproportionate rate. Black and white patients made up an equal proportion of deaths, at about 44% each. But, of the over 2,000 infections confirmed statewide by 6 April, only 37% were black, while 50% were white.

Alabama’s population is about 27% black and 69% white, according to the latest census data.

South Carolina is reporting 36% of Covid-19 cases are African American, compared with 56% white. Those numbers appear to be based on about 1,000 cases, less than half of the state’s current coronavirus tally of 2,417. The department of health did not respond to requests for updated data or a racial breakdown of coronavirus deaths.

The Tennessee health department said it plans to release data on race and coronavirus this week.

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