KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) — A nationwide discussion is underway regarding race and the coronavirus after new numbers are showing African Americans that are getting sick and dying at disproportionate rates.
We know overall numbers of reported cases and deaths, but we do not know by race. It’s a question KCTV5 News has been asking for weeks.
64-year-old Robert Perry died a few days ago at the VA Hospital in Kansas City. He was a father and a grandfather.
“He was a veteran. He worked with the post office for 42 years,” Kansas City resident Joe Jackson said.
Friends and family remember him as a hard worker with an infectious smile. Perry is just one African American death among the numbers, but it’s unclear how many in Kansas City, or even across the state.
“Personally, I don’t want to know, but I need to know,” Jackson said.
Here’s what is known, the available information is troubling.
In Illinois, 47% of deaths are African Americans even though they are 15% of the population.
In Chicago, they are 72% of deaths, but only 30% of the population.
In Michigan, 40% of the deaths and 14% of the population.
There is no public information for Missouri or Kansas. KCTV5 News has been asking for it for weeks by sending emails and official Sunshine Requests.
There is some information available by district. The third district has the most cases.
Geography clearly troubles Kansas City’s Mayor who posted a tweet about it Monday night.
Heartbroken by disparities, particularly in my home district (the 3rd), which reflect what we see too often in our community. https://t.co/TYIX0bhzqg— Mayor Q (@QuintonLucasKC) April 7, 2020
“What breaks my heart, is that all of those things that we see all the time. Things for decades have been inequities in health care and economic outcomes are happening again right here,” Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said.
Mayor Lucas says he’s asking the health department for transparency and says private labs have muddled what is known about race and COVID-19 in the Kansas City area.
“I’ll be honest, whatever data we have I think we should be providing more of it,” Lucas said.
Nationwide experts say the numbers reflect risk factors for the African American population, like high blood pressure and unequal access to health care.
Jackson points out something else.
“The people who are making the least are on the front lines the most. They are the front-line warriors in this,” Jackson said.
Perry’s loved ones are in mourning Tuesday night. They have now lost two family members, Perry and a cousin, Phillip. He was 49 years old and lived in Waco, Texas.
The CDC is openly reporting information on the connection between health and wealth. Those who have it are fairing better than those who do not.
It’s obvious, but the consequences of that are becoming clear nationwide, KCTV5 News will keep pushing for information in Kansas City.