COVID-19 in Philly: African Americans make up 46 percent of positive cases in the city

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley provides an update on the number of testing sites in the city during a news conference on Friday, March 20, 2020 (Photo via The Philadelphia Tribune)

By John N. Mitchell

PHILADELPHIA — The majority of city residents who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus for whom there is data available are African American, according to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

Approximately 46 percent of the 528 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus for whom racial data is available are African American, Philadelphia Public Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said during the city’s briefing on Wednesday. African Americans make up 43.7 percent of the city’s population, according to the most recent census estimates.

“This drives home the point that this virus is affecting all populations in the city of Philadelphia; it doesn’t discriminate,” Farley said. “Every racial and ethnic group, indeed every person in this city is at risk. We all need to be very serious about social distancing and other recommendations to keep residents healthy and slow the spread of the virus.”

However, Farley noted that the city has racial data for only 31.5 percent of confirmed coronavirus cases; 1,675 city residents have tested positive.

“We are continuing to see a rapid growth in cases of coronavirus infection across Philadelphia,” Farley said.

The 1,675 confirmed cases to date include 286 new confirmed cases in Philadelphia, and 74 cases that were previously reported by the state and not the county where the individuals live.

Ninety-nine of the new cases are health care workers.

City jails see uptick in coronavirus cases

Twelve inmates in city jails are currently infected with the novel coronavirus, City Managing Director Brian Abernathy reported Wednesday.

That’s a significant jump from Friday, when only one inmate had tested positive for the virus.

One guard also has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, Abernathy said.

District Attorney Larry Krasner, the Defender Association of Philadelphia and various activist groups have been calling on Mayor Jim Kenney to release some non-violent offenders and elderly inmates from city jails to reduce their risk of getting infected in that environment.

John N. Mitchell is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.