Kansas sees nation's largest racial disparities in COVID-19 deaths

Published: May. 13, 2020 at 10:23 PM CDT
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Kansas finds itself at the bottom of the pack when it comes to racial disparities among COVID-19 deaths.

Data from the

shows how significant the disease impacts African American and minority communities.

A heat map shows Kansas ranking last of the 41 states with data the research includes.

Here's what that means: In Kansas, about six percent of the population is African American, but of COVID-19 deaths, African Americans account for 30 percent. That's five times higher than their share of the state's population.

Whites make up about 85 percent of the population, but their rate of death is lower, at 63 percent.

"Definitely, I thought it was concerning but I'm not surprised because of some of the vulnerabilities in our population, in the black community," Rep. Gail Finney (D)-Wichita.

Representative Finney said this isn't a new issue and, for her, highlights what's already known.

"I definitely think it's a call to action for our county commissioners, our state, and our city officials. Also, to our community, but one of the things I would like to mention is this has been a concern we've talked about for many years, particularly in the legislature trying to address some of these issues," said Rep. Finney. "I think what's coming to light is some of the policies that have been taken by our state and maybe haven't been forthcoming to help these communities as they should."

Finney said the main hurdle is healthcare.

"Access to healthcare has been a problem in our community. They may work one or two jobs, but they still don't have to adequate health insurance or healthcare," said Rep. Finney. "So, that presents a problem in itself. Then we have a disparity in health issues, compared to social-economic issues, in diabetes and high blood pressure."

In response to disparities in COVID-19 cases that have existed in the United States since the outbreak, Representative Finney and other African American leaders in Sedgwick County formed the Wichita Black Alliance.

"We're advocating for increased testing, and you've probably seen recently HealthCore has done, and we're very proud of that." Rep. Finney said, "In addition, we're trying to make sure to build awareness and communication, and starting to dial-up particularly with county commissioners."

They are also seeking to have part of the $99 million the county received from the CARES Act to support minority communities to increase resources in those areas and PPE.

Finney said this will likely be discussed when lawmakers return to Topeka next week.