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Black Canadians more affected by COVID-19: study

Last Updated Sep 4, 2020 at 6:42 am PDT

EDMONTON (CITYNEWS) – When Maseray Bangura was diagnosed with COVID-19 at the beginning of August, she didn’t think she would make it out alive.

Bangura says her chest got unbearably heavy and she couldn’t swallow anything.

“Am I going to die?” she wondered. “I think that makes it worse than having the virus itself.”

Bangura’s inclination to associate COVID with death is being supported by a new study that says the virus has disproportionately affected Canada’s Black population in both health and finances.

According to the study by the African Canadian Civic Engagement Council and Innovative Research Group, Black Canadians are more likely to be admitted to hospital because of COVID-19 compared to the national average. And they are nearly three times as likely to know someone who died of the virus.

“Twenty-one per cent of Black Canadians know somebody who has died of COVID, versus 8 per cent of the broader Canadian population,” said Jason Lockhart, vice-president of Innovative Research Group. “That’s striking.”

Researchers behind the national study say poorer health outcomes for Black Canadians may be explained by greater exposure to the virus at work.

“(Dealing) with people face-to-face, that increases exposure,” said Lockhart. “But it’s not so much the concern with the safety of the workplace. It’s getting to work.”

The study found Black Canadians are twice as likely to take public transit. Those who commute report much worse health outcomes than the national average.

The research found Black Canadians are also more likely to report layoffs or reduced working hours in their household and are more worried about paying rent. They are also more likely than the Canadian average to be impacted financially by the pandemic.

Edmonton’s African Canadian Civic Engagement Council (ACCEC) was a partner in the study.

“Anecdotally this is something we’ve been hearing,” said Dunia Nur, the president of ACCEC. “Through this research, it just got reaffirmed that this is the truth. This is what people are experiencing.

“What do we need to do better to improve people’s quality of life? And how can we support people, and at the same time put together a specialized intervention for people who are a lot more vulnerable?”