On March 29, COVID-19 claimed its first victim in Leflore County, a man in his 70s with many underlying health complications.
He also was African American. So were the next 24 persons to die of the respiratory virus in the county over the next eight weeks.
That racial pattern has been broken.
Victim No. 26 was white. The death was reported Monday by the Mississippi State Department of Health.
Details about the person were not plentiful. Beside the individual’s race, the only other information that could be gleaned from the Health Department’s update was that the person had been living in a long-term care facility, such as a nursing home.
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Residents of long-term care facilities are particularly vulnerable to the disease because they are elderly or in poor health. The number of deaths from COVID-19 at these facilities has been steadily rising. They account for 50% of the deaths in Leflore County, 80% in Carroll County and 51% statewide.
Over the weekend, Carroll County’s death count reached 10 with the addition of the eighth victim from a long-term care facility.
According to the Department of Health, 118 nursing homes or other long-term care facilities have at least one active case of COVID-19 among their residents or staff. Crystal Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Greenwood and Vaiden Community Living Center have accounted for the majority of the nursing home cases and deaths in the two-county area.
Even with the first death of a white person in Leflore County, the new coronavirus has fallen disproportionately hard on African Americans. Blacks account for 75% of the population in the county but 85% of the cases of COVID-19 and still 96% of the deaths.
Statewide, the disparity is equally evident. Blacks, who represent 38% of Mississippi's population, account for 54% of the cases of COVID-19 and 53% of the deaths.
Health experts have said the gap, which is occurring nationwide, reflects the disproportionate share of African Americans who have underlying health conditions — such as heart disease or diabetes — or who have less access to medical care. Other observers have said the disparity also reflects the large number of African Americans who work in jobs where social distancing is difficult to achieve, such as food processing and manufacturing.
There were 206 new cases and 10 new deaths added to Mississippi’s totals Monday. The state has confirmed nearly 13,500 cases of COVID-19 since the outbreak began, and it has recorded 635 deaths.