Is COVID the New Silent Killer?
Maggie A. Smith is a director-at-large for the national Oncology Nursing Society (ONS), as well as nominating-chair and immediate-past president of the Chicago Chapter of ONS. Her clinical and research interest include being a voice for underrepresented and underserved populations. She is also, involved in community outreach and breast health education.
As nurses, we are at the frontline of delivering and coordinating patient care.
COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, has impacted our lives in some way be it mentally, physically, or spiritually. While data continues to emerge on COVID-19, statistics are showing that this is yet another disease that yields disproportionate outcomes in African Americans, as well as other vulnerable populations as it pertains to burden of disease and mortality.1
In recent data reported from New York City, one of the hot spots for COVID-19, mortality rates among African-Americans was higher (92.3 deaths per 100,000 population) compared to that of Whites (45.2) or Asians (34.5).1
In Illinois, my homestate, 58% of Cook County deaths from COVID-19 were from African-Americans despite the population being comprised of 23% African-Americans.1 One might ask, why is this the case? While there are still a lot of unknowns about this virus, we do know from our previous experiences with health inequalities that patient factors such as, gender, socioeconomic status, age and access factors, such as, geographical location and institution all contribute to disparities. Certain medical conditions such as, asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic kidney disease to name a few, are more prevalent among African-Americans, also increases our risk for severe COVID-19. When combining all of these factors they heighten the health risks and poor outcomes seen in African-Americans diagnosed with COVID-19.
It has been stated that many African-Americans are asymptomatic when presenting to the hospital and/or clinic and those with symptoms frequently complain of fatigue, malaise and headache which are often mild in nature and are often dismissed by the healthcare provider and the patient; therefore making this virus a new, “silent killer” among African-American communities.
As nurses, we are at the frontline of delivering and coordinating patient care. Our active participation in the health care system can improve health outcomes and reduce health disparities seen in African-American patients. We directly influence patients’ health status through our hands-on care and indirectly by engaging patients in their treatment. I stand with you and encourage you to continue to advocate for your patients’ right to be tested to decrease the mortality seen with this virus as we all are an integral part of the team and can make a difference in combating COVID-19.
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2020). Coronavirus (COVID-19). Retrieved on, April 30, 2020 from, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.