Unequal counts of cases and deaths due to Covid-19 reveals the structures of power that impact social group bias
A prominent US example of how Covid-19 reveals the structures of power is racial and ethnic bias. In the US, African Americans are much more likely to die from the virus (Jean-Baptiste and Green 2020; Yancey 2020).
“The Johns Hopkins University and American Community Survey indicate that to date, of 131 predominantly black counties in the US, the infection rate is 137.5/100 000 and the death rate is 6.3/100 000.5 This infection rate is more than 3-fold higher than that in predominantly white counties. Moreover, this death rate for predominantly black counties is 6-fold higher than in predominantly white counties.” (Yancey 2020)
That some groups die more than others is not merely due to the virus
Unequal counts of cases and deaths speak to the wider problem of health and race in the US and elsewhere that put disadvantaged social groups at risk. This concern has implications.
For example, Moderna had to stop from publishing their vaccine trials because they had not included enough minorities as subjects.
“Moncef Slaoui, the head of the Trump administration’s effort to quickly produce a vaccine for the coronavirus, was on the phone at 6 p.m. on Aug. 25 to tell the upstart biotech firm Moderna that it had to slow the final stage of testing its vaccine in humans.
Moderna’s chief executive, Stéphane Bancel, a French biochemical engineer, recognized the implication…. Moderna’s problem seemed fitting for late summer 2020, when the United States was reeling from not just a pandemic but unrest over racial injustice.
Dr. Slaoui informed Mr. Bancel that Moderna had not recruited enough minority candidates into its vaccine trials.
If it could not prove its vaccine worked well for Black and Hispanic Americans, who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, it would not make it over the finish line.”
But whether these actions matter is unknown.
The techno-solutions that allow the wealthy to mitigate its effects Covid-19 are rooted in inequality
As social status does not deter the virus, it will disproportionately impact those who cannot afford, or are suspicious of, contact tracing technologies.
“The 1.4 million migrant workers in Singapore, for instance, have been severely hit by the pandemic but they can hardly afford a smartphone; their over-crowded dormitories render the app design unfit for the challenge, as nearly everyone is exposed to the virus ….” (Milan 2020: 4)
Countries had allowed, at times, travel for those who present a Covid 19- negative test, but such tests cost money if a doctor does not prescribed them. Within countries, those with a second home in the countryside fled the densely packed city. Not everyone can afford to leave, and as a consequence, Covid-19 exposes and enlarges extant divides.
 Sharon LaFraniere, Katie Thomas, Noah Weiland, David Gelles, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, and Denise Grady. The New York Times. Nov. 22, 2020, Section A, Page 1 of the New York edition with the headline: Politics, Science and the Remarkable Race for a Viable Vaccine.
Cover photo by Richard Nyoni on Unsplash
Dubrow, Joshua K. “Local data and upstream reporting as sources of error in the administrative data undercount of Covid 19.” International Journal of Social Research Methodology 25, no. 4 (2022): 471-476.
Jean-Baptiste, Cindy Ogolla, and Tyeastia Green. “Commentary on COVID-19 and African Americans. The numbers are just a tip of a bigger iceberg.” Social Sciences & Humanities Open vol. 2,1 (2020): 100070. doi:10.1016/j.ssaho.2020.100070
Milan, Stefania. “Techno-solutionism and the standard human in the making of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Big Data & Society 7, no. 2 (2020)
Yancy C.W. “COVID-19 and African Americans.” Journal of the American Medical Association. 2020;19(323):1891–1892.
Copyright Joshua Dubrow The Sociology Place 2022
Joshua K. Dubrow is a PhD from The Ohio State University and a Professor of Sociology at the Polish Academy of Sciences.
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