First 12 to Die of Coronavirus in St. Louis Were Black

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click to enlarge Dr. Fredrick Echols and Mayor Lyda Krewson, photographed on March 12 at news conference on COVID-19. - DOYLE MURPHY
Dr. Fredrick Echols and Mayor Lyda Krewson, photographed on March 12 at news conference on COVID-19.

All of the first twelve people to die from COVID-19 in St. Louis were black, according to the city's health director.

Dr. Fredrick Echols, writing in an op-ed for the St. Louis American, revealed the troubling information on Wednesday, saying the virus has further exposed long-running inequalities in health care.

"Many of the pre-existing conditions that make the coronavirus more dangerous for some people — like heart conditions and diabetes — disproportionately affect the black community," Echols writes. "This is why everyone in the City of St. Louis — especially African Americans — must take precautions against spreading this disease."

As of Wednesday evening, the city had reported 514 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, including the twelve deaths. Zip code data released a week ago showed a concentration of cases in north city neighborhoods. About 46 percent of St. Louis' population is black, roughly equal to the percentage of white residents.

The city had not previously released information about the race of those who were infected. In the county, officials say they've been able to collect data on race for 60 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases. Of those, 55 percent of those infected were black. The county has reported 1,337 confirmed cases and 28 deaths. At least eleven of the deaths in the county have been African Americans, although race was not reported in each case listed in a breakdown of the fatalities. A quarter of county residents are black, according to U.S. Census data.

In his op-ed, Echols writes that there has been a myth circulating that black people were resistant to the virus.

"The idea that African Americans are somehow resistant to it is both untrue and dangerous to the health of our community," he writes.

Echols adds that testing has been a key part of slowing the virus and "for many of us in the black community, this access is more easily said than done."

Until late last week, north city had only one public testing site, operated by CareSTL Health at 5471 Dr. Martin Luther King Drive in the Wells-Goodfellow neighborhood. CareSTL has since opened a second site at 2425 North Whittier Street near Homer G Phillips Senior Apartments in the Ville neighborhood.

Affinia Healthcare is also now operating a mobile testing site at 1717 Biddle Street in the Carr Square neighborhood.

Affinia announced today that it would be opening a second site on April 13 at 6763 Page Avenue in Pagedale, which is in north St. Louis County.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at [email protected] or follow on Twitter at @DoyleMurphy.
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