Associated Press in Atlanta
Sun 16 May 2021 12.48 EDT
“Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr Anthony Fauci, said on Sunday “the undeniable effects of racism” have worsened the coronavirus pandemic for Black, Hispanic and Native Americans.
“Covid-19 has shone a bright light on our own society’s failings,” Fauci said during a graduation ceremony for Emory University in Atlanta.
Speaking to students from Washington, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), who leads the Covid-19 response in the US, said many members of minority groups work in essential jobs where they might be exposed to the coronavirus.
He also said they are more likely to become infected if exposed because of medical conditions such as hypertension, chronic lung disease, diabetes or obesity.
“Now, very few of these co-morbidities have racial determinants,” Fauci said.
“Almost all relate to the social determinants of health dating back to disadvantageous conditions that some people of color find themselves in from birth regarding the availability of an adequate diet, access to healthcare and the undeniable effects of racism in our society.”
Fauci said correcting societal wrongs will take decades, and urged graduates to be part of the solution.
Once society returns to “some form of normality”, he said, people should not forget that infectious disease has disproportionally hospitalized and killed people of color.
Fauci was awarded the Emory University president’s medal. Previous recipients include former president Jimmy Carter, the Dalai Lama and the late John Lewis, a civil rights leader and congressman.
Accepting the award, Fauci denounced the destruction of division.
“Societal divisiveness is counterproductive in a pandemic,” Fauci said. “We must not be at odds with each other since the virus is the enemy, not each other.”
Fauci has led NIAID since 1984. He led the US response to Covid-19 under Donald Trump and has continued under Joe Biden. He praised the Emory graduates for coping with the profound disruption of the pandemic.
“Not since the influenza pandemic of 1918 has humanity faced a public health crisis of this magnitude,“ he said.
“Each of you deserves enormous respect for your extraordinary adaptability, resilience and dedication to learning, completing your studies and graduating despite immense difficulties and uncertainties.”