49 out of the 50 people who died of COVID-19 in D.C. since June were Black From its earliest days, the coronavirus hit Black people and neighborhoods the hardest, and the pattern has not changed since.
From NPR station

WAMU 88.5

49 out of the 50 people who died of COVID-19 in D.C. since June were Black

Black residents account for 77% of all COVID deaths in D.C., though they make up just 40% of the population. Tyrone Turner/WAMU/DCist hide caption

toggle caption
Tyrone Turner/WAMU/DCist

Nearly every person who died of COVID-19 in D.C. since June was a Black resident, according to an analysis of DC Health data by DCCovid.com.

Of the 50 people who died of the virus since June, 49 were Black. Sixty percent of those deaths occurred in just two wards: Wards 7 and 8.

The grim numbers coincide with a dramatic rise in cases due to the Delta variant and the latest peak in infections, which came on Sept. 17 in the District. Case numbers generally have been trending downward since then, though the city is still facing high levels of community spread and case counts that are 11 times higher the lowest point in the pandemic, which occurred in mid-June.

The death data from the summer and early fall are yet another indicator of a tragically familiar story of severe racial disparities in healthcare access, quality of life, working conditions, and housing, resulting in a wildly unequal pandemic.

From its earliest days, the coronavirus hit Black people and neighborhoods in the District the hardest, and the pattern has not changed since.

Article continues below

DC Health data shows that 63,305 people in D.C. have been infected with COVID-19, as of Oct. 19. Of those, 33,119 — just over half — were Black, in a city where Black people make up just over 40% of the population.

The racial gap is even more stark for deaths: of the 1,184 Washingtonians who have died during the pandemic, 911 of them were Black residents, or 77%.

Majority-Black Wards 7 and 8 have seen a disproportionate share of deaths. Since the beginning of June, Ward 8 has accounted for 38% of deaths, while Ward 7 accounts for 22% of the total.

The vast majority — 42 — of the 50 deaths since June have been among unvaccinated people, according to DC Health data. Since January, when the vaccine rollout began, just 12 fully vaccinated D.C. residents have died of COVID-19, compared to 214 people who were not fully vaccinated or unvaccinated.

Officials and community leaders have struggled to increase vaccination rates among Black residents in D.C., working alongside trusted messengers to correct gaps in access and address concerns about the shot and historic mistrust of the medical establishment.

"The numbers are low east of the river with the COVID-19 vaccinations because people are uncertain and afraid," D.C. resident Elvera Patrick told DCist/WAMU earlier this year. "It's been so many stories and myths about the vaccination that many don't know what's the truth."

Even with significant outreach, majority-Black Wards 7 and 8 lag noticeably behind the rest of the city in the percentage of residents 12 and older who are fully vaccinated: 44% in Ward 7 and 37% in Ward 8, compared with 64% in Ward 4 and 59% in Ward 3.

This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.

Questions or comments about the story?

WAMU 88.5 values your feedback.

From NPR station

WAMU 88.5