PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — African Americans are more likely to have family and friends die from COVID-19 or from a respiratory illness in the past few months, that’s according to a survey by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.

This is something Dr. Noble Maseru of Pitt has noticed in both his professional and personal lives.

“African American, definitely yes. In terms of my Caucasian colleagues, no. Myself, about three weeks ago, I had 14 individuals that I know personally that succumbed to COVID.”

A total of 11% of African Americans say someone close to them has died from coronavirus, compared to 4% of white Americans, and 5% of Americans in general.

“Folks talk about the pre-existing medical conditions, but we should actually go upstream and address the pre-existing social conditions,” says Dr. Maseru.

“We are less likely to have access to healthcare, we are also disproportionately more likely to have essential service jobs where we must go to work. We are more likely to be more exposed at work in those jobs. We are more likely to have inter-generational housing or crowded housing,” Dr. Randolph Peters, an AHN primary care internal medicine physician, said while pointing out prevailing ideas and customs play a role, too.

“Speaking for myself, growing up, the normal cultural values are, if you weren’t dying, you weren’t going to the hospital. Not believing that you need to wear a mask, not believing that social distancing is important, or even cultural values about what really constitutes social distance. This is one of those cases where education is important, and just how you feel about things is not sufficient,” he said.

The survey results can help guide leadership.

“We have no idea, for example, in the city of Pittsburgh or Allegheny County, what is the mortality rate specifically by race and geography neighborhoods,” Dr. Maseru says.

“This is a really difficult time in our country, and when I look at people protesting, it’s terrifying, because, out of necessity, they are doing exactly the opposite thing that you would do to try to stop the spread of the virus. But they’re out there advocating for me,” Dr. Peters said,

He says many people will have no symptoms.

“It’s really hard to compare that to the immediacy of a threat that shows death happening in eight minutes and 46 seconds. So I would never tell people not to protest. For those who are protesting, I would beg, please wear masks, please observe social distancing,” he said.

He said it will reduce the risk of illness in the community.

Dr. Maria Simbra