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COVID-19 highlights health disparities among African Americans in Delaware

[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Members of the African American Task Force learned more about pollution’s impact on predominantly African American communities.


The task force subcommittee on Infrastructure and Environment is looking at how pollution, home ownership, and education affect racial disparities in the state.


Caitlin Del Collo is a policy analyst with the Delaware State Senate Majority Caucus. She presents a stark view of the contrasts between African American and white households, especially when it comes to health and wellbeing.


“So of the 12 census tracts in Delaware that have the highest risk of lead exposure which is a rank of 10, nine out of those census tracts come from a majority African American population,” said Del Collo.


One statistic Del Collo highlighted was the differences in education, while New Castle and Sussex counties had at least a 13 percent difference between African American’s and whites having a college degree, the number was about the same in Kent County.


She attributes that to what she calls the HBCU effect, and how important schools like Delaware State University are to ensure equitable access to education.


Del Collo says Delaware reflects national trends with COVID-19


“26 percent of COVID-19 deaths in Delaware were among non-hispanic Blacks," said Del Collo. "And for reference, only 21.9 percent of the Delaware population is Black. More Black folks in Delaware are dying of COVID than should be given the population.”


Subcommittee member Willie Scott links the disparity in COVID-19 deaths with the increased rates of Asthma in predominantly African American communities. A lot of these increased cases can be correlated with pollutants from industrial sites in New Castle County.


Scott also adds Delaware has one of the highest concentrations of Ethylene Oxide gas in the country, coming from the Croda plant near New Castle. Croda recently became the target of a federal lawsuit over the emission of the carcinogenic gases.


He says these hazardous emissions are affecting Black people disproportionately, and that’s what needs to be addressed by the state legislature.


The entire task force meets on November 9th, and will soon begin listening sessions to gain additional insight from these communities.


Subcommittee chair State Sen. Elizabeth "Tizzy" Lockman (D-Wilmington) says she wants to bring on more public voices to the committee to learn about the real effects of the data that’s been presented.


She says they’re planning on conducting listening sessions early next year.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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