Ayanna Pressley: ‘Structural racism’ and ‘food apartheid’ causes more blacks to die from COVID

Rep. Ayanna Pressley, a Massachusetts Democrat and member of the far-left “Squad,” blamed “structural racism” and “food apartheid,” among other things, for increased comorbidities among blacks that make them more susceptible to dying from COVID-19.

In an interview with MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell last week about the then-pending shipment of the new coronavirus vaccine — which began on Sunday — Pressley claimed that so-called “marginalized communities” ought to get the vaccine first because people who live in them seem to be more vulnerable to COVID’s impact.

“The coronavirus is the third-leading cause of death for black Americans,” said Pressley.

“So, the most vulnerable and marginalized communities because of the comorbidities of structural racism, because of unequal access to healthcare, because of transportation deserts and food apartheid systems have been the most vulnerable to contracting this virus,” she added.

The Massachusetts Democrat may have been referencing a study published in August by the left-leaning Brookings Institute by Bradley Hardy and Trevon D. Logan which noted that before the pandemic, blacks historically suffered from higher rates “of preexisting health conditions such as hypertension and lung disease,” comorbidities that have contributed to the higher death rates.

“Across the economy and society, the distributional consequences of COVID-19 are uneven: the pandemic and its broader economic and health consequences are disproportionately impacting Black Americans,” the authors said. “The outsized challenges that Black Americans are facing are a reflection of the generally diminished economic position and health status that they faced prior to this crisis.”

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention substantiate the Brookings Institute study.

The CDC says that adults with “certain underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness” if they catch the virus, including “hospitalization, admission to the ICU, intubation or mechanical ventilation, or death.”

The data show that more than 90 percent of Americans who have died from COVID had comorbidities.

“Race and ethnicity are risk markers for other underlying conditions that affect health including socioeconomic status, access to health care, and exposure to the virus related to occupation,” the agency says on its website, adding that blacks 1.4 times more likely to contract or die from COVID than whites.

But the CDC also says that Hispanics are at a higher risk — 1.7 times — than blacks.

There is no evidence that supports Pressley’s suggestion that white racism is a factor in higher comorbidities among blacks and Hispanics as well as greater COVID-19 death rates, however.

In her interview, she also called for a moratorium on rent payments and evictions, direct payments from the government to Americans as part of ongoing financial relief during the pandemic, housing assistance, and several other measures without discussing how to pay for them.

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Also, O’Donnell and Pressley both blamed stalled COVID-19 relief on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), despite suggestions by top Democrats including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) in recent days that they purposely held up new relief packages as part of a political strategy.

Earlier this month, Pelosi pushed back on a CNN reporter’s suggestion that refusing to agree to a smaller relief package for months before the election, only to consider one now after the election is over and it appears as though Joe Biden won, was a “mistake.”

“It was not a mistake, it was a decision that has taken us to a place where we can do the right thing without other, shall we say, considerations in the legislation that we don’t want,” she said.

“Nancy Pelosi is finally admitting she let businesses die and families struggle for months all because of the election,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) tweeted in response to the Speaker’s statement. “Democrats see this entire crisis as leverage to play politics. Sick.”

Jon Dougherty

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