Dr. Anthony Fauci has a clear message about why Black, Indigenous and Latino communities are suffering from COVID-19 more than other communities. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases calls it a “double whammy”: the combination of holding essential jobs and having high rates of comorbidities like diabetes. The first increases one’s chance of exposure to the virus, and the second increases one’s likelihood of developing complications and dying. This is an important message, but it comes with the risk of inadvertently holding people of color responsible for high rates of COVID-19.
Fauci recognizes that diseases like diabetes and hypertension stem from long-term social determinants of health, but less sophisticated observers sometimes blame them on people’s bad choices, whether eating too much of the wrong foods or exercising too little. Attributing high rates of COVID-19 to high rates of comorbidities opens the door to blaming people for being sick.