Man with his shirt rolled up, as a doctor prepares him for a vaccine
Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Joshua Velas prepares to administer the first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Command Master Chief Jason Negron at Mare Island Dry Dock (MIDD) on March 18, 2021. In many places, Black Americans are outpacing white people on vaccinations and are showing fewer infections. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jordyn Diomede

‘We Must Fight with Facts’: Stop Falsely Blaming Black People for the Spread of COVID-19

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s baseless claims about unvaccinated Black people being the bearers of COVID-19 were not surprising at all. This is yet another instance of people, and not just elected officials, using Black folks as scapegoats for the failures of the state. 

Lt. Gov. Patrick told Fox News’s Laura Ingraham on Aug. 19: “The biggest group in most states are African Americans who have not been vaccinated. The last time I checked, over 90% of them voted for Democrats in their major cities and major counties.” 

The last time we checked, these statements lack substance. What Lt. Gov. Patrick achieved in the interview was not to uncover the truth, but to disseminate misinformation and fan the flames in our already politically divisive country. His ill-conceived assertions reflect the unfortunate reality that people can easily, dangerously spin fiction into fact and still garner proponents of a fallacious correlation. 

Inaccurate Race Statistics

Let’s set some things straight. Here in Mississippi—Texas’ nearby COVID-19 hotspot neighbor—white, unvaccinated individuals from rural areas primarily populate the top 19 counties with the highest COVID-19 infections in the state, data from One Voice, a leading Mississippi nonprofit, show.


For instance, Neshoba County, a county where white people are 58.8% of the population, saw an average of 271.9 new confirmed cases per day, per 100,000 residents last week—the highest average surge in cases seen in Mississippi. The Mississippi State Department of Health  reported that from June 24 to Aug. 28, 2021, white people made up 1,098 COVID-19 cases in Neshoba County compared to 266 infected Black people. The evidence clearly shows that Black people do not account for the largest share of unvaccinated adults, a reality Lt. Gov. Patrick has repeatedly failed to acknowledge. 

In Texas, vaccination rates among Black people are, in fact, statistically lower compared to other racial and ethnic groups, with 7.94% fully vaccinated as of Sept. 7. However, the Texas Department of State Health Services reports that Black people, who make up about 13% of the state’s population, hold 16% of the state’s cases. 

On the other hand, white and Hispanic Texans amount to more than 80% of the population and carry about 70% of cases. 

Mississippi Counties COVID Cases Map

Mississippi faces similar COVID-19 challenges. Only 40% of the state’s population—approximately 1.2 million out of 2.9 million people—are fully vaccinated. Out of the total population of Black people in Mississippi—approximately 1.2 million—429,418 are fully vaccinated. However, about 639,966 of the remaining white population of 1.7 million are fully vaccinated to date, MSDH reports.

This month alone, nearly 12,000 Mississippi students have tested positive for COVID-19, and almost 30,000 students are in quarantine. Last week, about 1,000 contract health workers were sent to assist Mississippi’s fourth COVID-19 surge. 

But just two weeks ago, Gov. Tate Reeves said on Facebook, “We are not panicking,” and, “My number one goal from day one of this pandemic has always been to protect the integrity of our health care system.” 

Responsibility for Health Failures

We are a state that has not expanded Medicaid. We are a state that has underfunded public education systems. We are a state that does not offer our colleges and universities, particularly our historically Black colleges and universities, the resources they need. We have a severely under-checked budget system that attacks poor folks and Black folks more than they do wealthy individuals. 

For years, the Black community has been stressing the imperative for the state to offer more public health-care funding. And now, when we have very specific examples of our institution’s failures, the blame-game card is conveniently dealt against Black people instead of taking responsibility for past failures and moving forward with tangible solutions. 

Coupled with the  ill-advised regulations of not requiring (or in Texas, forbidding) mask mandates, new waves of Delta variant infections will continue to balloon in states such as Mississippi and Texas if stricter safety regulations are not put in place to protect the lives of all residents. And with our nation’s history of placing medical barriers on non-white individuals, our vaccination rates will not improve unless we provide vaccine equity and proper health-care resources for all individuals in need. 

In fact, over the past month, vaccinations among minority groups have been on the rise. More Black people are getting vaccinated, data from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the NAACP show. Per the Kaiser study, between Aug. 2 and Aug. 16, 2021, vaccination rates among Black and Hispanic individuals increased by 2.5% and 2.6%, respectively. 

Six people posing beside a MSDH table. All are wearing masks.
The Mississippi State Department of Health’s Office of Health Equity partnered with New Horizon Church and the City of Jackson for a free vaccination event in the capital city on Aug. 4, 2021. Staffers from the MSDH Office of Health Equity are pictured here with Miss USA Asya Branch. Photo courtesy MSDH twitter

In a recent study as part of the NAACP’s COVID KNOW MORE initiative, 70% of Black Americans have either been fully vaccinated, or have had their first dose of a vaccine, with plans to get the second. 

Grotesque Fabrications Must End

Additionally, of those vaccinated, 90% say they will receive the booster shot if the CDC recommends one. Yet, we continue to notice a pattern of elected officials blaming minority communities for COVID-19. These officials, and many who choose to believe these grotesque fabrications fall short in understanding that the COVID-19 virus has no specification for the type of person it infects. 

Regardless of race, religion, political party or socioeconomic status, the virus has no boundaries—period. What seems to be the case here is officials expanding their boundaries of lies relating to the pandemic, and presenting targets when it becomes well-suited to certain officials’ political agendas. 

We must make it our common goal to fight COVID-19 together with tangible, equitable solutions. The unwise path is continuing to tear other communities apart and placing blame on those who least deserve it. To defeat COVID-19, we must fight with facts. The remarks from Lt. Gov. Patrick was clearly anything but the truth.

This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Free Press, its staff or board members. To submit an essay for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words and factcheck information to [email protected]. We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.

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