Even at the onset of the pandemic, racial health disparities played a large role in determining which patients got tested and which did not. Early CDC testing criteria dictated that patients exhibiting fever, cough, and labored breathing, but had recently traveled to an area where COVID-19 cases were prevalent or had come into contact with anyone who fit those guidelines should be tested. Dr. Uché Blackstock, who works part-time at an urgent care center in Brooklyn, noted in "How Racial Health Disparities Will Play Out in the Pandemic," that the majority of patients who fit that criteria at her clinic were typically "affluent and white." Black patients that presented flu-like symptoms and tested negative for the flu did not get tested for COVID-19 because they did not fit the other criteria. Unfortunately, it's impossible to know for sure if they had the illness. "It shows the peak of our systemic inequities that certain people can be tested so easily—and not just easily, but the tests that they’re getting seem to be from companies that have very quick turnarounds. My patients are waiting five to seven days to find out. So for five to seven days you’re asking someone to self-quarantine at home. Don’t go out. Minimize your exposure to other people. And these people have jobs. One thing I have noticed is that a lot of my Black patients work for the city. They are essential employees. They’re bus drivers. They work for transit. They can’t really afford to be out of work anyway, and they still have to work. They don’t have the luxury of working remotely."
Research shows that clinicians tend to negatively stereotype and make assumptions about patients of color, which influences the level of care and attention they give those patients. "When it’s time for clinicians to ration resources, I think we can already assume that Black patients are going to be disadvantaged because they’re not going to be listened to." Due to a systemic deficiency in receiving good health care and little guidance in proper nutrition and exercise, patients of color are at higher risk of developing hypertension, asthma, diabetes, and other conditions that may lead to increased complications from COVID-19. In addition, many low income communities where people of color live are found near toxic dumping sites, or have high numbers of cockroaches and other vermin whose droppings trigger asthma. These environmental factors also contribute to their health disparities. So, what's at stake? "Humanity. If we don’t think about the most vulnerable members of our society, what kind of society are we? We talk about all the values of living in this country, but if we don’t take care of each other, we don’t take care of the people that really have the least, then we are on a, really, a very dangerous, dangerous course—especially with this pandemic."