Black and Hispanic Americans Suffer Disproportionate Coronavirus Infections
Across the country, the novel coronavirus is severely affecting black people at much higher rates than whites, according to data released by several states, as The New York Times reported.
In New York, which has seen the most COVID-19 related deaths, the virus has disproportionately affected both the black and Hispanic population. In New York City, Hispanics make up 29 percent of the population, but 34 percent of the city's COVID-19 deaths, while African-Americans are 22 percent of the city's population and 28 percent of the fatalities, according to new statistics from the city, as US News and World Report.
When I saw this, it made me very angry," Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday, as Politico reported. "It's sick. It's troubling. It's wrong."
Public health researchers say the alarming statistics highlight inequalities in resources, health, and access to care. Pervasive health conditions like asthma, diabetes and heart disease put people at a higher risk of getting seriously ill or dying if they contract COVID-19.
"There are clear inequalities, clear disparities in how this disease is affecting the people of our city," de Blasio said, as Politico reported. "So many people struggle to get the healthcare they need, who didn't have the money to afford the healthcare they deserved. So many people have lived with chronic healthcare conditions."
As Business Insider reported, the numbers across the country have been even more disproportionate. In Chicago, where African-Americans make up 32 percent of the population, they have accounted for 72 percent of virus-related deaths and more than half of all positive test results. Similarly, in Milwaukee, blacks make up 28 percent of the population but have been 73 percent of all COVID-19 related deaths.
"Those numbers take your breath away, they really do," said Lori Lightfoot, the mayor of Chicago, as The New York Times reported. She is the city's first black woman elected as mayor. She added that the statistics were "among the most shocking things I think I've seen as mayor."
The statistics moved Dr. Anthnony Fauci, who sits on the president's coronavirus task force, to address societal health disparities at the White House on Tuesday.
"And the reason I want to bring it up, because I couldn't help sitting there reflecting on how sometimes when you're in the middle of a crisis, like we are now with the coronavirus, it really does ... ultimately, shine a very bright light on some of the real weaknesses and foibles in our society," Fauci said, as Business Insider reported.
"As some of you may know, the greater proportion of my professional career has been defined by HIV/AIDS, and if you go back then during that period of time when there was extraordinary stigma — particularly against the gay community — and it was only when the world realized how the gay community responded to this outbreak with incredible courage and dignity and strength and activism, that I think that really changed some of the stigma against the gay community, very much so.
"I see a similarity here because health disparities have always existed for the African American community. But here again, with the crisis, how it's shining a bright light on how unacceptable that is," he said.
Sharrelle Barber, an assistant research professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Drexel University, told The New York Times that the effects of policies drawn up generations ago keep many black residents in segregated neighborhoods without job opportunities, stable housing, or grocery stores with healthy food and more.
"These communities, structurally, they're breeding grounds for the transmission of the disease," Barber said. "It's not biological. It's really these existing structural inequalities that are going to shape the racial inequalities in this pandemic."
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The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.
"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."
The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.
They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.
They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.
But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.
"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.
What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.
It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.
To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.
First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.
Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.
University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.
"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."
Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.
"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.
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