Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the US, testified before Congress on Tuesday that he believes racism has contributed to black Americans being disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Well, I mean, obviously the African American community has suffered from racism for a very, very long period of time," Mr Fauci said in response to a question from Illinois Democratic Congressman Bobby Rush at an oversight hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
"I cannot imagine that that has not contributed to the conditions that they find themselves in economically and otherwise. So the answer, congressman, is yes,” Mr Fauci said.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has maintained for months that minority communities have been at greater risk for Covid-19 infection and death.
"Current data suggest a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups," the CDC says on its website, linking to a research paper from April.
The APM Research Lab released a report earlier this month that found black Americans have suffered 24.3 per cent of the known Covid-19 deaths in the US. That's despite their population share being just 12.4 per cent.
White Americans, meanwhile, have fared proportionately better. While they make up 62.2 per cent of the US population, their share of the Covid-19 death total is just 51.7 per cent.
Civil rights leaders and lawmakers have argued black Americans have been disproportionately affected due to a systemic lack of access to health care, more crowded housing conditions caused by decades of economic oppression, and other factors.
Mr Rush, a longtime civil rights activist and co-founder of Illinois' Black Panther chapter, has spent a strong bulk of his congressional career focusing on issues affecting black communities.
The congressman was in the headlines earlier this month after video emerged of police officers lounging in his congressional district office while people looted surrounding stores.
While it was not immediately clear whether the officers in Mr Rush's office had been ordered by higher-ups to stand down to the looters, Mr Rush was apoplectic about how the officers appeared to be treating his office as a living space.
“They even had the unmitigated gall to go and make coffee for themselves and to pop popcorn — my popcorn — in my microwave while looters were tearing apart businesses within their sight and within their reach,” Mr Rush said at a press conference earlier this month.
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