HARTFORD, CT – The death of George Floyd and the COVID-19 pandemic converged Monday at an Albany Avenue event, which included a walk-up testing site within walking distance of a swelling rally against racism.
Numbers released Sunday by the Department of Public Health show that blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 both in the number of positive cases and the number of deaths.
DPH data shows that there have been 5,355 non-Hispanic blacks and 7,434 Hispanics who have tested positive for the virus, and 582 non-Hispanic blacks who have died while 340 Hispanics have died. There have been 14,247 non-Hispanic whites who have tested positive and 2,897 who have died. The DPH data also includes some incomplete entries, as there are another 14,194 positive tests and 56 deaths for which race is not listed.
Blacks account for 12% of Connecticut’s population while Hispanics account for 16.5% of the population and whites account for 66.5% of the population.
Based on data provided by the Department of Public Health, the rate of novel coronavirus infections per 100,000 people in Connecticut is 584 for non-Hispanic whites, 1,248 for Hispanics, and 1,365 for non-Hispanic blacks.
The pattern breaks with respect to the fatality rate. However, it’s worth noting that 82% of the nursing home population is white. As has been previously reported, 62% of Connecticut’s coronavirus-associated deaths have been in nursing homes. As of May 27, the estimated fatality rates by race per 100,000 people, excluding a weighted percentage for nursing home deaths based on race/ethnicity, are as follows:
• Non-Hispanic Black: 84
• Non-Hispanic White: 34
• Hispanic: 32
• Non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaskan Native: 21
• Non-Hispanic Asian or Pacific Islander: 7
State Treasurer Shawn Wooden said the disparities are pretty extreme for blacks and Hispanics when it comes to COVID-19. The rate of infection is almost three times the amount for blacks as for whites.
“I think it’s critically important that communities of color come out and get tested when there are opportunities,” Wooden said. “I’m out here today to send that message and show my support.”
Wooden, who was tested Monday, said that’s why he was at the Artists Collective.
In healthcare and elsewhere, Wooden said, America is still struggling with its “centuries-old epidemic of racism.”
“Today is about life and surviving COVID-19 by getting tested, by socially distancing,” Wooden said. “Today is also a moment of talking about the lives of unarmed black people being killed.”
He said they should not let George Floyd’s life be in vain. Floyd is the Minnesota man who begged for air as a police officer was seen on video kneeling on his neck. His death has sparked protests across the country.
“I’m hopeful that this may be an Emmet Till moment in America. Where all Americans see this for the despicable hatred and vileness of what it is, and that we go beyond this moment and we talk about criminal justice reform, we talk about equity in our economic life, we talk about reducing healthcare disparities, we talk about housing issues, we talk about unemployment. This is a time for America to come together on all of these fronts,” Wooden said.
House Majority Leader Matt Ritter acknowledged that Connecticut has a lot of work to do when it comes to police accountability, but he’s going to let others like Sen. Gary Winfield determine the direction of that discussion.
Ritter said racism existed before COVID-19 and it will outlive COVID-19.
Winfield, who is co-chair of the Judiciary Committee, succeeded in passing legislation in 2019 that changed the way information is released following any incident involving a serious use of force by police. The law reshapes the way police handle use-of-force incidents and fatalities by requiring certain details to be made public on request within a set period of time, and by prohibiting police from firing into fleeing vehicles.
It also included the creation of a Police Transparency and Accountability Task Force that has so far met once, in January.
“It is incumbent upon us as elected officials to do more,” Ritter, who is likely to be the next speaker of the House, said. “It’s simply horrific, it’s unacceptable. It makes me so, so sad that in our country in 2020, we’re living through this.”
Ritter says he doesn’t know why the task force hasn’t met since January.
Tying the two settings together, Wooden said the rallies following the death of Floyd are about life as much as getting tested is about life.
“I see a real connection and a parallel between this pandemic and our national pandemic of racism,” Wooden said.
Jeffrey Flaks, president and CEO of Hartford Healthcare, said they hope to test hundreds more people in the community.
“This pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on the black community,” Flaks said. “It is essential that we have as much testing as possible.”
Christopher D. Brechlin contributed to this story.