COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Central Ohio advocates are concerned with the death rate among children with COVID-19.
According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control, 121 Americans younger than 21 have died from the virus between February and July. Of those, more than three-quarters are Hispanic, Black or Native American.
“It’s hurtful, quite frankly. Myself as an African-American man, myself as a father — I take that really personally,” said Marlon Platt, the assistant executive director of the African American Male Wellness Agency.
For 17 years, the agency has been tackling health disparities in the African American community through education initiatives, supply drives and health screenings. Platt explained the COVID-19 health crisis is exacerbating issues minorities have been experiencing long before 2020.
“We hear these numbers. It’s not something we want to hear, but it reminds us that we do have an important job to do with our programming and with engaging communities that are underserved,” he said.
Of the children killed by COVID-19, the CDC says 75 percent had at least one underlying health condition such as asthma or obesity, which disproportionately affect minorities. Platt pointed to the prevalence of pre-existing conditions, as well as lack of access to adequate care and education in the Black community as risk factors for the virus and other issues.
“It just so happens that now that COVID is here, it is adversely affecting communities that were already hurting so greatly,” said Platt.
The youth numbers echo the disproportionate infection and death rates for adults. Previous studies show the COVID-19 death rate for minorities age 65 and under is twice as high as white Americans.
This year, Franklin County, the city of Columbus and other entities declared racism a public health crisis and pledged resources to address health disparities.
The African American Male Wellness Agency partnered with the Franklin County Board of Commissioners to assemble and distribute care kits, with masks, hand sanitizer and educational material, to neighborhoods with high COVID-19 positivity rates.
The group also initiated the M.A.S.C. Up campaign, which stands for Make A Safer Community and encourages everyone to wear a facial covering.
Platt explained, “What we’re trying to do is make sure we’re getting on the ground, as far as putting our best foot forward and going door to door, taking these supplies to the communities that very much need them.”
The agency was planning its second care kit distribution event Thursday, September 17th at John Bishop Memorial Park in Whitehall from 4-7 p.m. You can find more upcoming events and information here.