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Black Cape Codders Contract COVID-19 at Rate 3x Higher Than White Population

Liz Lerner

Newly available data show that Black people on Cape Cod have contracted COVID-19 at a rate three times that of the white population.

Vaira Harik of the Barnstable County Department of Human Services said the disproportional effect on Black residents is concerning — and reflects broader disparities in five social determinants of health: economic stability, education, access to health care, a person’s residential environment, and the community context.

“We can’t overlook the various stressors and lack of accessibility that our residents of color have across these five social determinants of health,” she said.

The data come from the New York Times, which published a national county-by-county breakdown Sunday after suing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for access to information.

Harik said the Massachusetts Department of Public Health should be providing county-level data on race and COVID-19 directly to local officials so they can respond.

State Sen. Julian Cyr highlighted the difference between Black and white infection rates on Thursday during a weekly press briefing by the Cape Cod Reopening Task Force.

“When we see a health disparity that is this stark, even though the data’s preliminary, it’s hard to deny its significance,” he said.


He said inadequate health coverage and access to primary care contribute to the problem. Other factors include overcrowding in housing that lower-income people can afford and overrepresentation of people of color among essential workers, he said.

Cyr said only 49 percent of COVID-19 case records for Barnstable County include information on the person’s race.

Jennette Barnes is a reporter and producer. Named a Master Reporter by the New England Society of News Editors, she brings more than 20 years of news experience to CAI.