By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
This reporter is an avid runner, and while I’m working to abide by all the social distancing rules of these unprecedented times, I cannot resist the beauty of spring, the embrace of these warmer temperatures on my melanated skin and the cool breeze that offers comfort as I hit the pavement mile-to-mile.
However, as I run through various areas of uptown D.C. with a mask covering my mouth and nose, practicing social distancing as best I can, by crossing the street when others are near, I can’t help but hear some of my melanated brothers and sisters, saying: “I ain’t got it.”
By “It,” they mean COVID-19 or the novel coronavirus.
Well, Sis, you might not have “it,” but according to statistics more than 1,000 Washingtonians do, and at least 303 of those residents identify as Black or African American.
In the District of Columbia, 28 percent of patients who tested positive for COVID-19 are Black, the highest number among all racial and ethnic groups in the city. Further, the races and ethnicities of 32 percent of positive COVID-19 tests are unknown, which means even more than 303 Black people could be battling with this disease in the District.
Yes, the city that was once affectionately called “Chocolate City,” is still majority Black, but not by much. According to the U.S. Census population estimates in July 2019, Black residents accounted for 46.4 percent of the population, while White Washingtonians made up for 45.6 percent.
While at least 303 African Americans tested positive for COVID-19, only 135 White residents were confirmed to have the virus, accounting for 12 percent of confirmed cases by race. Further, 14 of the 22 people who died from COVID-19 in D.C. are Black. There’s a much smaller percentage gap between White and Black residents and White and Black COVID-19 patients in the District and something is not right- especially when our darker brothers and sisters are dying.
I’m well aware that social distancing is incredibly difficult during these times, and even harder for a culture like Black Americans, where coming together is truly our thing. Culturally, we’re huggers, we’re dappers and we celebrate in major ways with large numbers of people.
Further, statistics show that even our housing environments are not always conducive to proper social distancing.
“Many people of color live in cities, dense neighborhoods, or public housing, while others experience persistent housing insecurity or homelessness. Our families tend to be larger and more than one generation may live under one roof, exposing vulnerable adults to frequent interactions with others inside of their home,” D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) wrote to his colleagues in a memo on March 23.
Despite statistics and sociological factors against us, there are ways to do better- that begins with doing everything in one’s power to follow social distancing rules accordingly.
Black people, we’ve got to stop standing on the ground, that “We ain’t got it,” and do what we can to make sure our communities are intact once the COVID-19 pandemic has improved or ended; because right now we’re the ones dying.
First, stay woke. Just because you don’t think you’ve got “it,” doesn’t mean you don’t or that you can’t spread it to someone else. People are positive for COVID-19, but asymptomatic, and thus, blindly infecting others. If you’re woke, you know that just because someone doesn’t look sick, does not mean they don’t have the virus, or are not infectious. Further, continue to regularly check news sources, statistics and daily reports from local and federal lawmakers on updates regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s important to “stay woke,” because even doctors and officials are learning new things about the novel coronavirus daily. Staying informed can help protect yourself and others. A useful site for coronavirus in the District is: https://coronavirus.dc.gov.
Secondly, remember to wash your hands and wipe your surfaces. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends hand washing regularly for 20 seconds with warm water. I know all that water, soap and hand sanitizer might be drying out your skin, but it’s totally worth it during these abnormal times. Plus if you’re sticking to the stay-at-home order then you don’t have to worry about people seeing your ashy paws. In addition, remember to wipe your phone, computer and other surfaces regularly as they tend to collect germs.
Finally, staying at home is key. If you don’t have to go out, don’t. If you’re like me, and need a little sunshine and outdoor exercise in your day, that’s understandable and suggested, but the CDC recommends wearing face masks when in public spaces. Face masks don’t have to be the official ones worn by health care workers, but can also include scarves, bandanas and protective garments worn over your nose and mouth.
Despite rising numbers in D.C., we will get through this, but in order to do so, we must work to protect one another and flatten the curve. So stay woke, stay clean and stay home.