(SOUNDBITE) (English) GARY HARRELL, WHO HAS LOST 10 FRIENDS AND FAMILY MEMBERS TO COVID-19, SAYING: "It's just hard, You wake up one in the morning and, like yesterday, you worry about what news you're going to get." Louisiana business owner Gary Harrell was in shock after he received message after message, saying someone he knew had died from COVID-19.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) GARY HARRELL, WHO HAS LOST 10 FRIENDS AND FAMILY MEMBERS TO COVID-19, SAYING: "The first thing was a message from a friend who is asking that I assist her with her father's obituary.
He had passed on Sunday.
And then within a few hours, I got another text message as I'm driving.
And that text informs me that my aunt had passed away.
And, you know, it's just it just all becomes very surreal." In total, Harrell has lost 10 friends and family members to the virus, including two aunts.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) GARY HARRELL, WHO HAS LOST 10 FRIENDS AND FAMILY MEMBERS TO COVID-19, SAYING: "It didn't occur to me that nine of the of the 10 individuals, that I knew, were African American.
It never dawned on me that they were people of color.
One was Hispanic in that nine.
And it never occurred to me that it wasn't a diverse group." It's not an isolated trend.
Initial data from Louisiana, Michigan and Illinois show African Americans are dying from COVID-19 at an alarming rate.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday acknowledged the glaring disparity.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP SAYING: "We're actively engaging on the problem of increased impacts, there's a real problem and it's showing up very strongly in our data on the African-American community and we're doing everything in our power to address this challenge, It's a tremendous challenge, It's terrible." While the data is preliminary and not national, experts say the disparities reflect both higher levels of underlying illnesses among African Americans, which makes them more vulnerable to getting severely sick from COVID-19, as well as longstanding inequalities in access to healthcare.