African Americans make up a disproportionate share of Acadiana’s coronavirus deaths

The gist: While not matching the severe racial disparity seen at the state level, Acadiana’s black community is suffering a disproportionately high number of coronavirus fatalities. African Americans account for 39% of coronavirus deaths in the state’s seven-parish health region but only 27% of the population.

Seventy-six people have died in the Acadiana region as of Tuesday 43 were white, 30 were black, three are categorized “unknown.” That breakdown tracks a trend of disparity seen nationwide. Across the country, public health officials are finding that coronavirus is wreaking havoc on black communities, who tend to have high rates of chronic disease and relatively limited access to healthcare. 

Acadiana’s disparity is smaller than the state’s. To date, roughly 56% of Louisiana’s 1,405 deaths are African American, a rate 1.75 times the black community’s share of the state population. Deaths among African Americans in Acadiana are 1.4 times the population share. 

We don’t yet know how this breaks down, parish-by-parish. The Louisiana Department of Health has released parish-level demographic data only for parishes that have reported 25 deaths or more. In Region 4, the LDH region that maps onto Acadiana, St. Landry Parish is the only one that meets that threshold, with 26 deaths reported. Of those, 20 were white and four were black, inverting the disparity in a parish with the highest fatality rate, 19%, among its confirmed cases. (By contrast, Lafayette Parish’s case fatality rate is approximately 4%.) St. Landry has the largest black community in the region as a percent of its parish population — 41%.

*Editor’s Note: After this story was first published, LDH confirmed that 25 of the 28 deaths reported in St. Landry Parish as of April 22 were nursing home residents.

Lafayette is in the early stages of launching a taskforce to examine health disparities. Announced earlier this week, the taskforce will be headed up by Carlos Harvin, LCG’s chief of minority affairs.