Despite COVID risks, public health experts sign letter supporting protests

But the risks of congregating during a global pandemic shouldn’t keep people from protesting racism, according to dozens of public health and disease experts who signed an open letter in support of the protests.

“White supremacy is a lethal public health issue that predates and contributes to COVID-19,” the letter said.

Initially written by infectious disease experts at the University of Washington, the letter cited a number of systemic problems, from the disproportionately high rate at which black people have been killed by police in the U.S. to disparities in life expectancy and other vital categories — including black Americans’ higher death rate from the coronavirus.

“Data is showing that blacks and Latinos have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 in many states,” said Nsoesie, who was not among the letter’s signatories when NPR contacted her. “Racism is one of the reasons this disparity exists.”