Workplace conditions, lack of resources for new Americans may be factors in disproportionate coronavirus infection rates

“This is a limited and incomplete data set and I would urge extreme caution on drawing overgeneralized conclusions from the data,” Governor Burgum clarified during his Wednesday press conference.

He reported 37.6% of North Dakota’s total COVID-19 patients are minorities. According to Wednesday’s numbers, it is at least 787 out of 2,095 positive cases. To put it in perspective, the numbers show black North Dakotans are 3.5% more likely to get infected than whites. Native Americans are 2% more likely.


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“The virus doesn’t know about race,” said Hukun Dabar, executive director of the Afro American Development Association. “It’s everybody.”

Hukun Dabar is executive director of the Afro-American Development Association of Fargo-Moorhead. With many New Americans working in manufacturing, Dabar said workplace conditions have a lot to do with the disproportionate numbers, especially at the beginning of the pandemic.

“So what happened first time was like, work work work work, they never cared,” Dabar explained. “Now what are they saying, shut down each manufacturing companies, you know. They were not six feet apart. Most of the new Americans got COVID-19 from the companies they were working for.”

Dabar also said the state government did not act fast enough for new Americans. Many reportedly did not have the resources and vital information to prevent the spread when the pandemic started locally. Fortunately, Dabar says the recently formed Red River COVID-19 Task Force is now filling in those gaps.

There are more health care workers who can speak their native languages, and a team is set up to translate press releases and other vital information.

Dabar hopes North Dakotans don’t jump to conclusions about these recent numbers.

“You’re always going to see people blame, ‘oh, new Americans are the ones spreading COVID-19.’ Of course, what do you expect when you don’t give them resources,” Dabar said.

Governor Burgum shared this notion, appearing to be emotional about the issue at Wednesday’s press conference.

“The virus doesn’t discriminate and neither should we,” Burgum said on Wednesday.

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