“The Rev. Dr. Kejuane Artez Bates was a big man with big responsibilities,” Akilah Johnson and Nina Martin write over at ProPublica. “The arrival of the novel coronavirus in Vidalia, Louisiana, was another burden on a body already breaking under the load. Bates was in his 10th year with the Vidalia Police Department, assigned as a resource officer to the upper elementary school. But with classrooms indefinitely closed, he was back on patrol duty and, like most people in those early days of the pandemic, unprotected by a mask. On Friday, March 20, he was coughing and his nose was bleeding. The next day, he couldn’t get out of bed. Bates was only 36, too young to be at risk for COVID-19, or so the conventional wisdom went. He attributed his malaise to allergies and pushed forward with his second full-time job, as head pastor of Forest Aid Baptist Church, working on his Sunday sermon between naps. Online church was a new concept to his parishioners, and during the next morning’s service, he had to keep reminding them to mute their phones. As he preached about Daniel in the lion’s den -— we will be tested, but if we continue to have faith, we will come through -— he grimaced from the effort. That night he was burning up with fever. Five days later he was on a ventilator; five days after that, he died. While COVID-19 has killed 1 out of every 800 African Americans, a toll that overwhelms the imagination, even more stunning is the deadly efficiency with which it has targeted young Black men like Bates. One study using data through July found that Black people ages 35 to 44 were dying at nine times the rate of white people the same age…. And in an analysis for ProPublica this summer … Harvard researcher Tamara Rushovich found that the disparity was greatest in Black men. It was a phenomenon Enrique Neblett Jr. noticed when he kept seeing online memorials for men his age. ‘I’ll be 45 this year,’ said the University of Michigan professor, who studies racism and health. ‘I wasn’t seeing 60- and 70-year-old men. We absolutely need to be asking what is going on here?’” Akilah Johnson and Nina Martin, “How COVID-19 hollowed out a generation of young Black men,” ProPublica.
Jeanne Pinder is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded... More by Jeanne Pinder