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The Racial Time Bomb in the Covid-19 Crisis

Pre-existing health conditions leave one group particularly vulnerable.

Early Monday morning the email arrived. The subject line began, “ALARM AT THE GATE,” written in all caps. Someone had died. That is always what that phrasing means.

The message came via a group email list maintained by the fraternity I joined in college some 30 years ago.

A younger member, a rising chef in his 30s, had died. As the email read, he passed away “due to immune system complications resulting from contracting the Covid-19 virus as a Type-1 diabetic.” He was in Detroit, which has emerged as a hot spot for the virus.

This was the third death I’d heard about of someone with a connection to my college or a friend who went there. All relatively young, all black men, all diabetics. The two others were in New Orleans, another emerging hot spot.

I recalled an arresting article I’d read from “Undark,” a Knight Foundation-funded, science-oriented digital magazine in Cambridge, Mass. (I’m on the advisory board of the magazine.) As the article pointed out, the virus may prove most devastating in the South because of “poorer health, curbed health care access and skepticism of government.”

What the article doesn’t state outright, but I read in the subtext, was that the virus is more likely to be deadly to black people. Most black people in America still live in the South. The states with the highest percentage of black people are in the South.

Read the full opinion article by Charles M. Blow on