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WV Lags in Reporting Coronavirus Impact by Race


Friday, May 8, 2020   

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginia's governor announced this week that targeted COVID-19 testing will be conducted in the state's African-American communities. His move follows a request by the state's NAACP chapter that officials release statistics on the number of African-Americans impacted by the new coronavirus.

West Virginia NAACP president Owens Brown points out that two months into the pandemic, the state still hasn't disclosed how many African-American COVID-19 deaths have occurred in individual counties.

"If we find a hot spot in the state of West Virginia and we have people living in those areas, we can inform not just African-Americans but all people to take more precautions," says Brown, "especially since the state is beginning to open up."

He says the state's Department of Health and Human Services has released data on COVID-19 testing and cases in nursing homes, but not in prisons, where African-Americans are disproportionately represented.

As of yesterday, West Virginia has had about 1,300 COVID-19 cases and 51 deaths, which is among the lowest amount in the nation. Brown thinks those numbers might be low because the state has not conducted widespread testing.

"I'm advocating for more testing because I think there has been an inadequate amount of testing in the state of West Virginia," says Brown. "We don't have any numbers if there was testing at correctional facilities, and another place we don't have any information is in public housing."

West Virginia is home to about 60,000 African-Americans, which is about 3.5% of the population. However, they make up almost 30% of the population in the state's prisons, according to a Prison Policy Initiative Report.

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