Long COVID Could Do Serious Damage in the Black Community

Districts relaxed requirements at the start of the pandemic, but experts say the effects of COVID-19 disruption are showing up in student’s lives.

An estimated 7 percent of people who get COVID-19 may not get better, and past trends suggest Black people could be among those hardest hit.

Black people continue to be among the communities hit hardest by COVID-19. But with more research on Long COVID coming to the surface, experts say the nature of the pandemic is changing.

Dr. Carol Oladele, director of research at Yale’s Equity Research and Innovation Center, says while experts don’t have all the answers about the long-term COVID condition, studies are underway and past trends suggest the Black community could be heavily affected. 

“All the studies are all trying to figure out what are the factors that cause people to continue to have symptoms beyond four weeks after infection. People thought that Black Americans would be most affected by Long COVID because they were disproportionately affected by COVID,” she says.

“The State of Black America and COVID-19, ” a report released by the Black Coalition Against COVID in March details how Black families were impacted by primary infections during the pandemic. 

For example, 1 in 310 Black children experienced the loss of a parent or caregiver compared to 1 in 738 white children between April 2020 and June 2021, according to the report.

But once the acute phase of the virus — with its accompanying fever, sore throat, body aches and other symptoms — has passed, too many Americans aren’t getting better. 

Black people are more likely to work in essential worker positions, live in crowded conditions, and be incarcerated — which increases the risk of contracting the virus. 

THE STATE OF BLACK AMERICA AND COVID-19, BLACK COALITION AGAINST COVID

“The evidence so far shows that Black Americans and folks who are Hispanic are more likely to experience symptoms that are characterized as Long COVD,” says Oladele, who contributed to the Black Coalition Against COVID’s two-year assessment. 

People with Long COVID are dealing with fatigue, shortness of breath, and headaches — among other symptoms — for weeks or months after contracting the virus. The report from Nature shows Black people are more likely than other demographics to experience acute kidney injury, diabetes, chest pain, and cough. 

Oladele says in January, a time when there appeared to be an overall reduction in cases, Black Americans were still seeking care, seeing the highest rates of COVID-associated hospitalizations since the pandemic started. 

“It was sort of masking the continued burden that Black Americans were continuing to experience in a negative way,” she says. “The hospitalization rates were high, meaning people were sick enough to need the hospitalization.”

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