As of December 8, 2020, the total number of Black COVID-19 related deaths reached 49,994. Since APM Research Labs issued their November 10 report, 3,783 more Blacks died over the last month. The Minnesota-based research project has been collecting mortality data by race from all 50 states and the District of Columbia since April.
What these numbers conceal is an astonishing development: as COVID-19 deaths are soaring to their highest levels--3,000 plus in one day on December 10--the Black death rate continues to fall. At the nadir of COVIDS-19’s Spring rampage, 407 Blacks died every 24 hours from May 3 to May 7. By contrast, from November 10 to December 8, Black deaths averaged only 135 per day.
The falling Black COVID-19 Death Index is not episodic. Before the May fever broke Blacks comprised 23% of total national deaths. By December, the total percentage of Black coronavirus deaths dropped to 18.5%.
Why are Black death rates falling at the same time COVID-19 deaths are surging through the roof in this second wave? New Black Nationalists attribute this trending to five major factors.
Sequencing: Black communities were hit hardest in the earlier stages of the coronavirus pandemic. That turned out to be fortuitous development, because Black people accepted the challenge of taking the virus seriously and responded accordingly.
In late April and May, cities with large Black populations like Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, and especially New York City were hammered as the virus spread with blinding speed. These areas adopted massive shutdowns and stay at home orders, that ultimately steeled Black communities psychologically for the remainder of the year.
By the time Trump began pushing for businesses, churches, and schools to reopen by Easter, Black people had come to terms with the reality that we were on our own.
The coronavirus deluge of Mid-West and Eastern Seaboard Black enclaves was immediately followed by the virus metastasizing to Southeastern states in late May, where 55% of Black people still live. Although Southern states had a month to get prepared for the viral invasion, Dixie Republican governors denied the lethalness of the virus in deference to Trump’s bullying and demagoguery. They opposing mask mandates, social distancing ordinances, and refused to close non-essential businesses and beaches. Thus efforts in Black communities to fend off COVID-19 transmission, had to work around their own state and local governments. Georgia, Louisiana, and South Carolina's Black communities were hit hard.
The George Floyd Protests: At the height of the pandemic’s “first wave,” the protests against the execution of George Floyd, (May 25-June 25) brought millions of Black people into the streets. On balance, protesting Blacks wore masks and socially distanced when possible. Given, the number of protests (550), participating demonstrators (estimated 15 million), and constant teargassing of marchers by police, it’s is a small miracle that new cases of COVID-19 illness and deaths actually declined by the end of June.
By the end of the protests in June, it was not uncommon to see medical stations and booths with hand sanitizers, masks, and water. Unlike Trump’s rallies that turned into a string of super spreader events, the fear that George Floyd protests would accelerate COVID’19 spread in Black communities never materialized.
Returning to Secondary Schools and Historically Black Colleges: In cities with large Black populations, full-time attendance in public elementary, middle, and high schools adopted distance learning platforms, delayed, staggered and partial return schedules to schools. Most Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) adopted full or hybrid return to campus schedules and distance learning platforms. Unlike several major predominantly white universities, HBCU’s did not experience mass campus-based COVID-19 outbreaks.
Even now, as the winter second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, some school districts that re-opened have temporarily suspended school-based learning. While the data suggests public schools have not accelerated COVID-19 spread, the closures slowed viral spread and lessened social contact between adult employees of school systems and the general public.
The “Re-Opening” and the Sunbelt Wave- As Trump pressed states to re-open their economies, in late July, Arizona, Texas, and Florida, experienced the sharpest rise in coronavirus cases in the country. However, these states' Black populations were relatively small and less concentrated as their northern counterparts. Arizona Blacks made up 3.4% of the state population, Blacks are 16.6 of Florida's population and 14% of the Texas population. The Sunbelt Wave marked a shift in which White, Spanish, and Native American populations death rates began rising relative to Blacks. The trend continues to this day.
COVID-19’s Invasion of the Heartland—By September, the coronavirus swept across the Great Plains states and Mountain West. The virtually all white states of Kansas, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Nevada, Minnesota, and Oklahoma were pummeled. Heading into December, South Dakota, Utah, and Idaho, were all running out of ICU beds. Nevada opened a 2000-bed outdoor field hospital.
These states with COVID-19 denying governors, legislators, and local leaders who were smitten with Trump’s snake oil, are now feeling the Merchant of Deaths’ pain. If Trump’s White Nationalists legions thought Trump would come to their aid when COVID-19 struck, they were mistaken.
Looking at a global screenshot of the COVID19 outbreak, APM Research Labs breakdown of the 286,000 U.S. deaths it catalogued as of December 8, 2020, breaks down as follows:
Pacific Islander (435)
Additionally, 6,196 deaths are recorded only as “other” race (and include more Indigenous people and Pacific Islanders, as well as multiracial individuals), while another 16,466 had an unknown race.
In conclusion, the five trend lines New Black Nationalists outlined in this article help to explain in-part why Black death rates have declined over time since the spring. As Blacks are 12.8% of the total U.S. population, but make up 18.5% of total coronavirus deaths, this is still an outrage by any measure.
It is yet another manifestation of the way “baked-in” structural racism, impacts Black communities with higher percentages of “essential” and “front-line” workers, live in denser population zones, have substantially less health care coverage, and a greater number of people with comorbidities.
Having said that, Black communities could be much worse off had we not taken the virus seriously. Trump's administration not only completely botched the federal government’s response COVID-19, but actively sought to punish cities in "Blue States." Now is not the time to relax our vigilance.
Quite the opposite, we are now passing through the most dangerous period of the pandemic. At the same time that the coronavirus is spreading and killing at its highest rates ever, the COVID-19 vaccine is hitting the street next week.
To be clear, the vaccine is not going to significantly impact the spread of COVID-19 until March. Moreover, Black skepticism at getting the vaccine shot is big issue. Indecision and confusion can easily become our two greatest enemies.
While we have our internal debates over the pros and cons of taking the vaccine, we must keep masking, maintaining social distance, hand washing, and avoiding larger indoor events. New Black Nationalists are proud of the way the Black community has responded to this crisis. The next six months, however, will be the most critical period to close out this challenge with a strong finish.