Officials are concerned after finding the majority of Milwaukee’s coronavirus diagnoses are concentrated in its Black community.
A map created by the Milwaukee County COVID-19 Dashboard shows the majority of cases are concentrated in the northern part of the county. As of late Sunday afternoon, there have been 606 positive diagnoses in the county and more than half of the patients in cases where the victim’s race is known — 255 of 422 — are Black. At least four Black men in Milwaukee County are known to have died from the virus.
“We are seeing a concentration of the virus on the north side of the city, especially among black men,” Wisconsin state Rep. David Bowen, who tested positive and is currently in quarantine, said during an online news conference this past week.
The men reportedly had other health issues including high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Milwaukee Health Commissioner Dr. Jeanette Kowalik wants to compare the data to other cities to figure out a solution to this problem.
Kowalik believes rampant misconceptions about COVID-19 helped spread the disease because people aren’t taking social distancing mandates seriously.
She also pointed to a history of racial segregation and health disparities in the Black community as possible indicators of the cause of the COVID-19 disparities in Milwaukee.
“Looking at the maps of Milwaukee, and looking where people live, looking at the history of redlining and segregation and how that crosses over into today,” she told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on March 23. “When we’re talking about various health outcomes like infant mortality, childhood lead poisoning, you see very similar distributions.”
As authorities investigate the cause behind the diagnoses, they want to make sure the public is informed. Mayor Tom Barrett said last Monday to local reporters that health officials are working on “communicating as fast as we can and as deeply as we can into these neighborhoods to let people know that this is not just about people who had been in China. This is about something that’s here right now.”