African Americans and COVID19

David Harrison, writing in Wall Street Journal (6.28.20), reminded us Black people are more than 3.5 times at risk to die of COVID19 than White people. In part because Black Americans are more likely than White citizens to use public transportation, less likely to work in occupations where they can telecommute, and as a group suffer poorer health.

Harrison pointed out transit systems outside the U.S. provide safer conditions for passengers. In Paris, riders must wear face masks and authorities require every other seat on trains and subways left vacant. Would be good advice for air travel protocols as well. Since May 9, Harrison added, only 1% of new disease clusters — defined as three cases of common origin recorded over seven days — have come from transit.

I contacted David and shared my observations about African American behavior here in the middle of the Pacific.

Aloha David,
Excellent article. Live in Honolulu. Only about 2% of population here is Black. Yet they are concentrated in our area due to projects in the Pearl Harbor shipyards. Although Black Americans are some 3.5 times more likely than White folk to die from COVID19, in my observation, they (primarily male) are the least likely cohort to wear face masks here — and these are required in most indoor areas.

Surveys suggest men perceive face masks make them look weak. Our president is a highly-insecure man. Maybe this triggers his behavior. President Woodrow Wilson is rumored to have shunned face masks in the 1918 pandemic, as he wanted to project a strong public image.

Facing social and institutional racism — as I wrote about at prestigious Hawaiian Electric — possibly Black men harbor feelings of insecurity and also subconsciously wish to portray strength — which in this case, increases their risk of contracting the disease. As we know, many suffer additional health risks such as obesity, heart disease, hyper-tension and diabetes. This group would be best served to adhere to safety precautions.

I’m a public health professional. In fact, I fought with U.S. experts about wearing face masks in late February and early March. I was the FIRST, and ONLY, professional to call for face masks at the time — see March 19th.

Not bragging. Pointing this out because the entire U.S. public health community fell in line with CDC recommendations not to wear face masks. How did this standard evolve? They knew in 1918. Asian nations have regularly #MaskedUp when hit by viral outbreaks. This is not a novel prophylactic.

Why then the massive, unanimous “group think”? Keep in mind we lose 20,000 – 80,000 Americans to common flu annually and face masks would reduce the spread. None of our experts makes this suggestion. Why is that?

My cynical side believes there is no profit in Americans wearing $0.50 face masks, when our bloated healthcare industry makes billions treating sick patients with flu; and BigPhRMA leads the charge with billions of dollars in sometimes controversial flu shots. Vaccine effectiveness in last year’s batch appears to have been around 9% effective. Americans would have been better served simply wearing face masks.

Seriously? What’s going on? It’s like the national failure when 100% of U.S. intelligence agencies lined up to launch war against Iraq in 2003, although many world leaders knew Saddam didn’t have WMDs, which he didn’t. We suffered a complete institutional failure. And the most important factor in social and public health response is consistent messaging. CDC initially said no; now CDC and WHO say yes to masks.

This caused confusion; now it’s political. The Left dons masks; the Right stands for freedom from government control. And the USA is losing.


In my opinion, anyone who challenges leadership fears reprisal or retaliation. Get in line; stay in line; do not question the prevailing “wisdom” of the top officials. In part, this is due to the importance of unified messaging, as discussed previously, but there was no debate allowed. This was not an evidenced-based decision. Science clearly supports the wearing of face masks.

Thomas Kuhn, Structure of Scientific Revolution, details the process of paradigms, anomalies and “normal science” in his classic work. Yet dissent is not tolerated in our democratic Republic. Speak out and lose funding.

SARS-CoV-2 represents the Third World War in my opinion. We see the first tier of successful nations. We’re not in that group. We’ve been mediocre. Fascinating how close we are to Sweden who followed the laissez-faire herd immunity strategy. We crashed our economy without much better results.

Face masks, physical distancing and common sense would have allowed our nation to remain more normal. What chaos we now suffer due to poor leadership and incompetent officials.

Thanks for your work!

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Ko’olau of Kaua’i. I am the Defiant One
“I Believe We Can”

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