As the death toll for COVID-19 crosses 100,000 people in the United States—the highest number of any country in the world—African Americans continue to be disproportionately impacted by the virus. Nationally, African Americans are nearly twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as would be expected based on their share of the population according to an NPR analysis. By contrast, in 37 states, whites make up a lower percentage of COVID-19 deaths than their percentage of the population. The trend holds in the Bay Area where, in the East Bay, cases have been heavily concentrated in Oakland, especially in East and West Oakland, where residents are disproportionately black and poor.
To understand why, California contributor Brandon Patterson talked to Tina Sacks, a professor at the UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare whose research focuses on poverty, inequality, and racial inequities in health. Sacks also previously worked on public health policy at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.