Fact Checker: Are Residents of Black Linn County Disproportionately Infected with COVID-19?

Tamara Marcus, leader of Advocates for Social Justice and candidate for District 3 of Cedar Rapids City Council, speaks at an April 23 rally focused on allies of the Black Lives Matter movement in Greene Square in Cedar Rapids. (Rebecca F. Miller / The Gazette)

State and local governments across the country are considering how to spend their share of funds allocated under the US Federal Rescue Plan, a $ 1.9 trillion COVID-19 aid bill intended to support the public health response and lay the groundwork for a fair economic recovery.

Linn County officials focused on fairness at a public forum Aug. 11 at the downtown Cedar Rapids public library, while receiving comments on how to split the $ 44 million allocation county dollars. Explaining why equity is critical to how this funding is allocated, Linn County Sustainability Program Manager Tamara Marcus explained how the pandemic has exacerbated racial and ethnic disparities, as evidenced by the impact. on the finances and health of individuals.

Marcus is also challenging Cedar Rapids City Council member Dale Todd for the District 3 seat in the November 2 local election.

“We see that 30% of the people in Linn County who have had COVID-19 are black,” Marcus said, while “blacks made up only 6% of the population of Linn County”.

Analysis

We’ll look at data on Linn County’s COVID-19 infections broken down by race.

Marcus attributed the data used in his statement to an April 2020 article from Small village highlighting racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 infections in Linn County.

Based on Linn County Public Health data as of April 23, 2020, Little Village reported that 153 of the county’s 507 residents who tested positive for COVID-19 – or 30.2% – were black. US Census Bureau population estimates as of 2019, show that the county’s total population is 6.1% black.

At that time, Linn County had 507 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 33 deaths. A total of 241 residents have recovered, according to Little Village. Race was unknown for 107 cases and ethnicity was unknown for 116 cases.

On April 23, 2020, the county had just unveiled its revamped COVID-19 website with a new data dashboard to track up-to-date information on infections by zip code, age group and race and ethnicity, among others measures. Data on positive tests by race and ethnicity was previously available online to the public only at the state level.

The measures put in place by businesses and government entities to curb the spread of the virus were much more restrictive at this stage of the pandemic, when schools and workplaces had moved to virtual operations, and the wearing of masks and social distancing was just starting to become the norm.

Now that businesses have returned to more normal operations and government entities have relaxed mitigation measures – and the highly contagious delta variant is leading to a resurgence of COVID-19 in areas with low vaccination rates – the total number of cases reported in Linn County rose to 22,711 on Wednesday. . Of these cases, whites accounted for 42% and blacks 4%, according to county data.

It should be noted that race and ethnicity are unknown in 52% and 53% of positive cases, respectively, as this data was not tracked at the start of the pandemic.

But a higher share of black residents in the county have tested positive for COVID-19, even though white residents make up most of the infections.

Providing his sources to the Fact Checker, Marcus pointed to county data showing that more than 8.2% of black residents in the county have tested positive for COVID-19, compared to nearly 4.9% of white residents. The county calculates this data using population estimates from the 2018 U.S. Census.

The point is, there are racial disparities when it comes to residents who contract COVID-19, but black residents now account for a smaller share of infections than last April, the time Marcus referred to.

The fact checker has contacted Linn County to verify the numbers reported by Little Village. The magazine had included a screenshot with its April 2020 article reflecting that its data was from Linn County Public Health’s online dashboard. The adjusted number of confirmed cases for April 23, 2020 is similar – now 538 in total, of which 138 are known to be black residents for a total of 31.2%.

The trend has remained constant over time with a higher share of black county residents testing positive for COVID-19 (2%) compared to white residents (0.2%).

Conclusion

While the numbers Marcus used were correct and based on data from reliable sources, the information she shared this month regarding racial disparities in the total number of COVID-19 infections in Linn County was dated over 15 months. This outdated information overstates by about 26 percentage points the proportion of black residents in the county who have now tested positive for the virus compared to white residents.

However, Marcus was right in his general argument that blacks are disproportionately bearing the negative impacts of the pandemic, as a greater proportion of black residents in Linn County have tested positive compared to white residents.

We give Marcus a C.

Criteria

The Fact Checker team checks statements made by an Iowa political candidate or national candidate about Iowa, or in advertisements that appear in our marketplace.

Complaints must be independently verifiable.

We assign marks from A to F based on accuracy and context.

If you spot a complaint that you think needs to be verified, email us at [email protected]

This Fact Checker was researched and written by Marissa Payne of The Gazette.


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Virginia C. Taylor

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