Statement by Vice President Joe Biden on the Racial Inequities of COVID-19
This is an anxious, difficult time for Americans all across this nation. We’re all worried about our health and our families. And for the millions who have lost their jobs or had their hours slashed, you may also be worried about just making ends meet. As a nation, we are being tested as never before, and I want to offer my heartfelt sympathies to all those who have lost loved ones to this virus as well as my heartfelt gratitude to all the frontline workers who are literally carrying our nation on their backs.
This pandemic is shining a light on so many inequities in our society — the lack of paid sick leave for workers, the need for stronger unemployment insurance, the necessity for a livable minimum wage. Unsurprisingly, it’s also amplifying the structural racism that is built into so much of our daily lives, our institutions, our laws, and our communities.
An early data analysis from the Washington Post indicates that counties with majority-Black populations have coronavirus infection rates three times higher than counties with majority white residents, with death rates nearly six times higher. In some parts of the country, Latinos appear to be harder hit as well. And, we’ve also seen reports of climbing infections and death tolls among the Navajo Nation and fears about the disproportionate impact the virus could have on Indian Country.
It’s unconscionable, and it shouldn’t be the case in the United States of America in the 21st century. But we know exactly why it is: Black, Latino, and Native Americans are still less likely to have health insurance. Less likely to have access to health care. More likely to have underlying conditions, like asthma and diabetes, that make them more vulnerable to this virus. And, more likely to face exposure to air pollutants that may be associated with higher COVID-19 death rates. Black and Latino Americans are also less likely to have a job they can just do from home. Meaning they’re more likely to have to choose between their health and a paycheck.
This pandemic has shown us the importance of leading with science and following the data — but we can’t follow the data if we don’t have it. That’s why I join my Democratic colleagues Senator Warren, Congresswoman Pressley, Senator Harris, Senator Booker, Congresswoman Kelly, and others in calling on the CDC and other agencies to release more data about how COVID-19 is hurting our communities. Not just data on age, but also on income and race, so we can focus resources on where help is needed first and fastest.
This virus can hit anyone, anywhere — regardless of race, economic status, or access to power — but it doesn’t impact every community equally. It hits hardest those who are most vulnerable and who have the fewest resources. The challenge for us as leaders is ensuring support gets to those who need it immediately, and doing the necessary work to rip out the structural racism that creates these inequalities wherever we find it.
We can do better for all our people. We have to.