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Peabody Award-winner Trey Kay brings us stories exploring all sides of the cultural issues that too often divide us.

COVID-19 Exposes Racial Inequities

Racial disparity socials.jpg
Trey Kay
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Healthcare provider giving the COVID-19 vaccination to a Black West Virginian in Institute, WV.

COVID-19 exposes an "us and them" divide in healthcare. The coronavirus is about three times more likely to put African-American and Latino people in the hospital and they are twice as likely than whites to die from COVID.

For this episode, Us & Them host Trey Kay speaks with Black West Virginians fighting to keep their community healthy during the pandemic.

COVID-19 numbers show the pandemic has hit Black and Brown people hard. The coronavirus is about three times more likely to put African-American and Latino people in the hospital and they are twice as likely than whites to die from COVID. The reasons for this disparity are as old as they are complex. Inequities in health care are rooted in the historical racism of our institutions. They are part of the reason some people of color don’t trust public health efforts or the healthcare industry in general.

In this episode, Us & Them host Trey Kay speaks with Black West Virginians fighting to keep their community healthy during the pandemic.

In March 2020, days before any ‘stay at home’ orders and before we used the term ‘super spreader event’, Romelia Hodges attended a packed church celebration in Marion County. Two weeks later several of Hodges’ friends were ill from the coronavirus and some died, including 88-year-old Viola Horton, West Virginia’s first COVID-19 death.

For decades Rev. Matthew Watts has warned about health disparities between Black West Virginians and white residents. He says it’s been hard to get people to listen and even harder to encourage action. Watts believes COVID-19 can be a catalyst for systemic change so that everyone is well served during the pandemic and once it’s behind us.

This episode of Us & Them is presented with support from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and the West Virginia Humanities Council.

Subscribe to Us & Them on Apple Podcasts, NPR One, RadioPublic, Spotify, Stitcher and beyond. You also can listen to Us & Them on WVPB Radio — tune in on the fourth Thursday of every month at 8 p.m., with an encore presentation on the following Saturday at 3 p.m.

Friendship Baptist Church
Romelia Hodges
Friendship Baptist Church in Everetville, WV, where a 30 percent of its members tested positive for COVID-19 after a large celebration in March 2020. Five people, who attended that event, died of the virus, including 88-year-old Viola Horton, West Virginia's first COVID-19 casualty.
Romelia Hodges
Romelia Hodges
Romelia Hodges attended the celebration at Friendship Baptist Church in March 2020 before the CDC had advised against public gatherings of fifty or more people. Afterwards, many who attended became ill and presented COVID-19 symptoms. Hodges took action and set up contact tracing for the people who attended.
Matthew Watts - photo
Matthew Watts
Rev. Matthew J. Watts, senior pastor at Grace Bible Church in Charleston, WV.
Filling syringes at Rand
Doctors and pharmacists from the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department fill syringes with the Pfizer vaccine to go into the arms of Rand, WV residents in February 2021. The event was held specifically to reach out to Black West Virginians, who are at heightened risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19.
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Matthew Watts
Rev. Matthew J. Watts receiving the COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic held by the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department at the Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center in January 2021.
Trey Kay - masked North Charleston
Julie Blackwood
Us & Them host Trey Kay interviewing people receiving the COVID-19 vaccine at the North Charleston Recreation Center in February 2021.
Rand shot
Trey Kay
A healthcare provider from Kanawha-Charleston Health Department injects an African-American woman at the Rand Community Center in Rand, WV in February 2021. This clinic was one of a series events targeted to minority West Virginians.
Trey Kay and Rev. James Patterson
Julie Blackwood
Us & Them host Trey Kay interviewing Rev. James Patterson, president of the Partnership of African American Churches (PAAC), at a vaccination clinic at the North Charleston Recreation Center in February 2021. This event was the first-ever minority-focused vaccination event in West Virginia.
Mike Jones
Trey Kay
Us & Them host Trey Kay met up with his childhood basketball hero Mike Jones at the North Charleston Recreation Center in February 2021. Jones says he chose to get the COVID-19 vaccination because he wanted to protect his 81-year-old mother. He brought is mother in for her shot later that afternoon.


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