OLD WESTBURY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo toured another mass vaccination site Monday and delivered another pitch for Black people to get vaccinated.
Speaking at SUNY Old Westbury and accompanied by a Black church leader and the local NAACP president, the governor twice repeated one of his recent talking points:
“COVID killed two times as many Blacks as whites, two times as many Blacks as whites.”
This is fundamentally not correct. Nationwide, white victims of the virus outnumber Black victims by a ratio of more than 4-to-1 in the 75% of deaths where the race of the deceased is known.
In New York state, white victims outnumber Black victims by more than 5-to-1 excluding New York City. Inside New York City, the death toll is nearly equal among the two races.
The rate of death as a percentage of population has in fact been much worse for Black Americans and Black New Yorkers than for their white neighbors, but not the number of deaths. It’s unclear if Cuomo is confused on his terminology or making a deliberate misstatement to strengthen his point.
“When it comes to the vaccine, we have to correct that injustice,” said Cuomo, who began agitating for a fair and equitable vaccination campaign months before the vaccine became available.
In the last three months, 6.7 million doses of vaccine have been administered in New York in a campaign very closely controlled and quite frequently adjusted by Cuomo and his top aides. Despite this, just 11.8% of the Black population over age 15 has been vaccinated statewide, compared with 23.2% of the white population in that age group.
In his public comments, Cuomo has focused not on his administration’s inability to improve the rate of Black vaccination but on the historical injustices that may be causing Black people to refuse vaccination.
One of his frequent references is the infamous Tuskegee Study, a federal experiment in a few hundred Black men infected with syphilis were left untreated over decades so that the long-term effects of the disease could be documented.
Ironically, the state where the syphilis study was conducted, Alabama, appears to be running a more equitable COVID vaccination program than New York: White people make up an almost identical portion of each state’s population (69.1% and 69.6%) but have gotten 77.9% of the vaccine in New York vs. 54.6% in Alabama.
Put another way, Alabama has vaccinated 10.7% of its Black population and 14.6% of its white population over age 15, while New York stands at 11.8% and 23.2%, respectively.
This despite Alabama ranking 50th among the states for per-capital vaccine doses administered as of Monday afternoon.
The race of 75.1% of COVID vaccine recipients is known in New York vs. 71.5% in Alabama.