By Joan Grzybowski, DO, FACOFP

We have a racist among us and it is not a person. It has no particular involvement with any political party. This racist has crept in and insinuated itself into our homes, our schools, our workplaces and where our most vulnerable live, like nursing homes.

It comes for all of us but has a special appetite for those among us who have chronic conditions. These conditions are worsened by a health system that up to now did not fully address the health inequalities that plague our society.

Health disparities can be caused by economic status, race, close living conditions, limited access to continuous health care, geography, lack of green space and a paucity of healthy food access. 

Comorbid conditions such as diabetes, coronary artery disease, hypertension, kidney disease, obesity and lung conditions like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are some of the health problems that allow this virus to wedge its way into our bodies. Those conditions are more prevalent in our African American and Hispanic populations. They have not been addressed successfully in times of normalcy and in this era of pandemic it makes the negative impact of the disparities even more murderous.

As of mid to late April, this virus has given us some data. Current studies of the predominantly black counties in the U.S. show an infection rate of three times higher than in white counties and a death rate six times higher than white counties.

This data is early and still coming in, but it suggests that these known health disparities are a flame to dry grass for this racist virus. I am hopeful that the spotlight shining on this virus will illuminate the darkness of our hidden health inequalities. Perhaps now health disparities will be addressed with the same tenacity this virus has shown. We live in a global world and each of us affects the other. We all will need to be on equal footing to thrive and survive.


Health disparities and the COVID-19 pandemic:

COVID-19 and African Americans – JAMA Network

COVID-19 Targets Communities of Color – The Harvard Gazette

Long-Standing Racial and Income Disparities Seen Creeping into COVID-19 Care – Kaiser Health News

Coronavirus Hitting Some African American Communities Extremely Hard – CNN


  1. You bring up some very important points and are trying to bring attention to extremely important and often overlooked issues. It is dangerous to call the virus racist, it is a virus and is not racist. Like you stated there is prevalent structural and institutional racism and our culture/society is stained with historical and ongoing racism. These are the issues that need to be addressed. To call the virus racist places the blame on the virus and detracts from the real cause of the inequalities.

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