COVID-19 study: Allegheny County’s African American population more vulnerable than white residents

PITTSBURGH — A new study from the Rand Corporation found that the neighborhoods in Allegheny County most at-risk to the effects of coronavirus have more African American residents.

The Black Equity Coalition is a group of health experts that has tracked these numbers since the beginning of the pandemic.

Dr. Tiffany Gary-Webb said the coalition created a data visualization tool she hopes will move people to take action.

“What this vulnerability index does is it looks at the characteristics of the actual neighborhood and says this neighborhood may be more vulnerable to COVID outbreaks than others,” she said.

In this context, vulnerability means a composite of different factors, including the percentage of poverty and access to resources.

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According to Gary-Webb, the findings were concerning but not surprising.

“Case rates, hospitalizations and death for most of the pandemic have been higher for Black residents in Allegheny County compared to especially white residents and other residents of the county,” she said.

The resource shows where the virus is spreading, and could help with targeted vaccination efforts in at-risk neighborhoods.

“Now we will be able to say, in certain areas, there’s a large percentage of the population that has been vaccinated, or a low percentage of the Black population that’s been vaccinated in this certain area,” Gary-Webb said.

Even though the coalition’s resource tracks the most vulnerable neighborhoods, Gary-Webb said those same neighborhoods should be viewed as resilient because of the way they have dealt with the challenges.