While minorities make up about 7% of the population of West Virginia, data recently released from the state shows people of color make up more than double that percentage in those who have tested positive for COVID-19.
COVID-19 data sorted by race was not released until Friday. Black leaders in the state have pushed health officials behind the scenes for more transparency in data reporting.
West Virginians of color make up 18.3% of positive cases — or 241 people — in the state, as of Friday. White residents are the remaining 1,082 cases, leading to 1,323 total positive cases.
Ninety-six black residents have tested positive for the coronavirus.
The current population estimate for West Virginia is 93.5% white, 3.6% black, 1.7% Hispanic or Latino, 0.8% Asian and 0.3% American Indian and Alaska Native, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Friday afternoon, data that showed the first positive case by race in each county was available on the Department of Health and Human Resources website. Friday night, that data was removed. The DHHR did not respond to an email late Friday inquiring about the change to its website.
In Marion County, 46 residents have tested positive, and 52% of them are black, according to the DHHR’s online coronavirus dashboard. The first COVID-19-related death in West Virginia was Viola York Horton, an 88-year-old black woman in Marion County. Her death was connected to an outbreak at a black Baptist church gathering on March 15.
The hospitalization rate for black West Virginians — 30% — is double the rate of white residents. The death rate — 4% — for white cases is a percentage point higher than black cases, according to the data.
In Berkeley County, 40 of the 144 positive cases are people of color. In neighboring Jefferson County, 10 cases are black residents, and 18 are listed as “other,” out of 87 total positive cases.
In Kanawha County, 41 of the 127 positive cases are listed as “other.” Twelve of the positive cases are black residents.
On April 30, DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch said during Gov. Jim Justice’s daily coronavirus news briefing that the number of deaths for black West Virginians would be listed on the dashboard. As of Friday, though, only the death rate was listed.
Crouch said during Friday’s news conference that a minority health advisory group has been formed after being announced last week.
West Virginia NAACP President Owens Brown has asked for a further breakdown of data by race, which includes the number of black West Virginians who have tested negative for the coronavirus. Brown said that, without knowing the total number of black residents who have been tested, it’s hard to know how hard the community has been hit by the virus.