DHEC opens drive-thru testing site in Fairfield

African Americans disproportionally suffering from COVID-19

COLUMBIA – Officials in the White House, including President Donald Trump, made it clear last week that numbers indicate that African Americans are disproportionally suffering from the coronavirus across the country.

In South Carolina, data released Monday by the S. C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) show that African Americans make up 27 percent of the state’s population and account for 41 percent of the state’s positive coronavirus cases. Those numbers also show that black South Carolinians make up 56 percent of cases that have resulted in death.

DHEC and other organizations are addressing this data in several ways. Cooperative Health is providing more testing for COVID-19 in African American communities and in rural areas, including in Fairfield County (See testing location and details below) where, as of Monday, Fairfield County had 24 total cases of COVID-19, and estimated cases were even higher at 147, according to DHEC data.

According to a chart on DHEC’s website listing the number of cases per 100,000 population, Fairfield County is the sixth highest county in the state with a rate of 107.4 cases per 100,000 population, just under Richland County.

African Americans are disproportionally impacted by some of the underlying conditions that have affected the severity of the virus, including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, asthma and obesity, DHEC officials said.

DHEC was unable to provide the percentage of African American cases in Fairfield County, but Laura Renwick of the S.C. State Emergency Response Team Joint Information Center said of the 528,000 adults in the state that have been diagnosed with diabetes, black adults account for 17.8 percent, and white adults for 12.4 percent.

State Rep. Rosalyn Henderson-Myers, D-Spartanburg, has called on Gov. Henry McMaster to create a task force specifically to address health care in minority communities in the state in relation to COVID-19.

Henderson-Myers posted on her Facebook page a video featuring Dr. Katrina Mattingly, an emergency room physician, who warns that, “People of color have more chronic medical conditions – high blood pressure, heart disease and lung disease…[that] weaken the immune system so that when people with these conditions catch COVID-19, they have a greater chance of developing complications.”

Because of this, Mattingly encouraged African Americans to adhere to social distancing and other precautionary measures the government has outlined.

Fairfield’s House Rep. Annie McDaniel echoed that advice.

“While life seems well with this virus, it is not,” McDaniel cautioned. “My African American family needs to listen to the authorities and health professionals at this time, and follow their instructions as to how to protect against this virus. African Americans, especially, like to gather, to visit with family, but we’re talking about a pandemic that spreads. It’s scary, and it’s deadly,” McDaniel said. “If you have symptoms, get tested. And if you test positive, get help.”

 McDaniel reminded Fairfield citizens that COVID-19 patients do not have to pay for tests or treatment.

“This is not about having insurance,” she said. “The cost of testing and treatment is being taken care of. Insurance is not a factor in this disease.”