"I'm not going to go there and die"

An elderly black man in his 60s had contracted coronavirus and was having trouble breathing when he arrived at an urgent care facility in Brooklyn last week. Dr. Uché Blackstock told him he needed to get to a hospital.

“I’m not going to go there and die,” the man responded, Blackstock recalled in an interview. “I’d rather go home, cause I know at least at home I’m safe.” The man left the facility with clear instructions from Blackstock, but she said she doesn’t know where he ended up.

For Blackstock, the patient’s response has become disturbingly common among African American and Latino patients, including many she’s been treating on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. Generations of distrust in the health care system have accumulated particularly among African Americans but also Latinos, she said — a long-standing issue based on a history of medical abuses dating back to slavery that’s now burst to the fore, with dangerous consequences.