Virus hits black people harder

  • Press conference

  • Stark reminder: health minister Kim Wilson (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

    Stark reminder: health minister Kim Wilson (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

  • Graphic by Christina White

    Graphic by Christina White


The impact of Covid-19 has been harder on the black population than others, the health minister revealed yesterday.

Kim Wilson said that 88 per cent, or seven, of the eight deaths linked to the coronavirus were black people.

She added: “As we have seen in other countries, the impact of Covid-19 is indeed also worse on black populations here in Bermuda.”

Ms Wilson said that 57 per cent of Covid-19 cases were black people, 39 per cent were white people and 4 per cent were among “other or unknown.”

But she added: “However, 72 per cent of hospitalised cases are black, and most distressingly, 88 per cent of deceased cases are black.”

Ms Wilson said: “The causes are not fully understood anywhere, but it is generally believed that it is due to underlying health and socioeconomic disparities.

“There are higher rates of chronic disease among black populations and a greater likelihood of living in smaller dwellings and higher density areas.”

The 2016 Population and Housing Census Report showed that black people represented about 52 per cent of the population compared with 31 per cent for white people.

Ms Wilson highlighted that the Covid-19 statistics were a “stark reminder” of the importance of preventive measures including mask-wearing, handwashing and social-distancing.

She added that 157 test results had come back between Tuesday — when two positive cases were confirmed — and yesterday, when all results were clear.

The health minister said that a “technical error” on Tuesday meant that instead of 153 results received by the reporting cut-off time, the figure was 127.

The total number of positive cases yesterday was 121 and the age of victims ranged from 18 to 101.

Ms Wilson said that 47 cases were active with seven people in hospital with two of those in critical care.

A total of 66 people have recovered from the disease.

The age range of fatalities was between 57 and 91.

Ms Wilson also outlined details of the “estimated real-time reproduction number”, or Rt, for the coronavirus.

She explained: “The basic reproduction number, referred to as R0 (R-nought), is the average number of susceptible people infected by each infectious person.

“The R0 is a static number, currently estimated at 2.4 for Covid-19, and is based primarily on the characteristics of the infection.

“In contrast, the real-time reproduction number — Rt — depends on additional factors including personal behaviours and interventions made to reduce contact between infected and susceptible people; its value will change over time as all of these factors change.

“The current estimation of the real-time reproduction number for Bermuda is 0.47, but this can fluctuate a great deal in a small population like ours.

“This is promising as our goal is to have an R at near or below 1.”

David Burt, the Premier, said that no decision was made at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday about when the island would move to phase two of reopening.

He added: “With the R number which the Minister of Health has reported being below one, we do possibly have the capacity to move forward.”

Mr Burt said that a Cabinet sub-committee would meet today “to discuss whether or not an official recommendation will be made to the Cabinet on moving to phase two at some point in time in the near future”.

He said that a flight from Atlanta was expected to arrive tomorrow and that all passengers would be quarantined in a government centre unless they were medically exempt, in which case police would check that they maintain quarantine at home.

Everyone who arrives on the flight will also be tested for Covid-19 at the end of their 14-day quarantine period.

Mr Burt asked Bermuda residents in Canada to register interest in a flight back to the island by filling out a special form on the Government’s coronavirus website.

He added that Canadian residents in Bermuda who would like to return to Canada should contact Travel Edge.

Mr Burt said that the island had entered the top ten countries for tests per head on Monday and that, although “this is not a competition ... the more that we test, the more we know about the virus and its spread in Bermuda”.

He added that there was a delay in the return of some results from the Southside test centre over the weekend, but that the problems were resolved and people could now expect a 24-hour turnaround.

Mr Burt said that an “overwhelming response” from the public for coronavirus tests at the drive-through site in St David’s meant that most appointment times were taken, despite extended hours this weekend.

He added that slots were available for next Monday and Thursday, but that some days would be reserved for essential workers.

Mr Burt said that testing and retesting of key workers and at seniors’ homes would be carried out “over the next few days” and that tests would also be offered to people in the prison system.

To view the health minister’s statement in full, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”

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Published May 14, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated May 14, 2020 at 8:03 am)

Virus hits black people harder

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