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Failing Another National Stress Test on Health Disparities

Educational Objective
To understand how COVID-19 is further heightening health disparities in the US
1 Credit CME

The African American daughter of one of us called from New York City in early March, worried about her Hispanic partner’s health. Did his high fevers, worsening shortness of breath, and painful cough indicate coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection? Given his history of asthma and hypertension, was he at high risk? What should they do? Urged to seek medical attention, he resisted. The nearby affordable and accessible urgent care clinics were staffed by physicians who, based on his previous experiences, “just didn’t get it,” and he anticipated that his concerns would be dismissed. When he relented and requested a coronavirus test, he was asked about international travel, but not about their small apartment or his use of public transportation. He was told “no test,” once again confirming his impressions of an uncaring system. He decided to stay at home and tough it out.

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Article Information

Corresponding Author: William F. Owen Jr, MD, Ross University School of Medicine, 2300 SW 145th Ave, Hollywood, FL 33139 (wowen@rossu.edu).

Published Online: April 15, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.6547

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Carmona reports serving on the boards of directors of Axon Enterprise, Herbalife, NuvOX Pharma, TherimuneX Pharmaceuticals, and Clorox. Dr Pomeroy reports serving on the board of directors for Becton Dickinson. Dr Owen reports no disclosures.

Additional Contributions: We thank the patient described with COVID-19 for granting permission to publish his story.

Additional Information: Dr Carmona served as the 17th Surgeon General of the US.

References
1.
@idriselba. This morning I tested positive for Covid 19. I feel ok, I have no symptoms so far but have been isolated since I found out about my possible exposure to the virus. Stay home people and be pragmatic. I will keep you updated on how I’m doing. No panic. March 16, 2020. Accessed April 13, 2020. https://twitter.com/idriselba/status/1239617034901524481?lang=en
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