Baltimore announces that Black people can actually catch COVID-19

How does this keep happening?

As you may recall, CNN host Van Jones recently felt compelled to pen an op-ed informing his fellow African-American citizens that they are not immune to the novel coronavirus. He was moved to do so after one of his well-educated relatives assured him there was nothing to worry about because Black people “have antibodies” to prevent them from contracting COVID-19.

Apparently a lot of people in Baltimore, Maryland don’t read CNN’s website on a regular basis. The same false rumor has been running around Charm City, leading to crowds of Black residents ignoring social distancing orders. This situation forced the city’s Health Commissioner to come out and make a public announcement, letting everyone know that this rumor is totally false and people are dying because of it. (CBS Baltimore)

Health commissioner Dr. Letita Dzirasa said Tuesday the city plans to increase its messaging and outreach efforts to make sure people understand that no one is immune from COVID-19.

“Unfortunately, there is a persistent rumor that African Americans are immune to coronavirus. This is false, and the data shows this is a very dangerous belief,” she said.

Initial racial demographic data of coronavirus cases in the city and across the state also shows African Americans have a higher rate of fatality than whites, she said.

Thus far, Baltimore hasn’t been hit as hard as other large cities like New York. They’ve recorded 1,060 confirmed cases and 25 deaths as of yesterday. But somewhat ironically, at least in terms of this persistent, false rumor, Black residents are both contracting the disease and dying from it at higher rates than white residents.

I’ve seen quite a few reports of this rumor making the rounds and the origins of it are starting to become clear. It’s not dissimilar to the early rumors we heard about COVID-19 only affecting Asian people, so everyone else didn’t have to be all that concerned. (Of course it originally affected primarily Asians. The virus came from China!)

As with many other aspects of modern life, it all comes down to economics and questions of poverty versus wealth. As I pointed out in the previous article about Van Jones, the median annual household income for Black families in the United States is still roughly $30,000 less than for white families. The margin of disparity in the city of Baltimore is even greater, and Black residents make up more than 60% of the city’s population.

Poorer people are less likely to be traveling internationally on a regular basis or flying in general. When the virus first reached the United States it was being carried by people traveling back and forth to China or destinations in Europe that had already been infected. That meant that the majority of early cases were indeed white and Asian travelers and those they quickly came in contact with.

But now that the disease has gotten loose in the Black community, it’s striking with a vengeance. This too is a result of economics. People with less money tend to not have access to better healthcare options, have poorer diets and generally worse health across the board. This means they are more vulnerable to the worst effects of the virus. And in Baltimore, as in many large cities, that translates to Black residents being the hardest hit.

Do what you can to squelch this rumor. It’s not only completely “junk science,” but it’s dangerous. Every group of people going out in the streets and ignoring social distancing rules is opening the door to infecting themselves and others. As Alexander Pope said, a little learning is a dangerous thing. A little fake news is even more deadly in this case.