Black Barnstable County residents have contracted COVID-19 at a rate three times as high as the county's white residents, an "alarming" trend that Cape Cod leaders said warrants passage of emergency sick time legislation and dedicating more resources toward data collection.
Citing new county-level data acquired and published by The New York Times last week, members of the Cape Cod Reopening Task Force warned during a Thursday press call that Black residents are overrepresented in confirmed COVID cases compared to their population in Barnstable County.
The local disparity mirrors a national trend: people of color are more likely to become infected and to die from the disease than white Americans.
On the Cape, officials said, the gap reflects the fact that people of color often have less access to health care, live in more crowded conditions where the highly infectious virus can jump from person to person more easily, and are more likely to work in essential frontline roles.
Dr. William Agel, chief medical officer at Cape Cod Healthcare, said that the trend underscores the need for state lawmakers to approve legislation making emergency paid sick leave available to all workers.
"It's not an issue that changes overnight, but now that the advice to workers is 'If you're not feeling great, stay home,' a lot of workers have no sick time at all, so how can they stay home?" he said.