Oprah Winfrey wants the African American community to understand that the coronavirus is "taking us out." The talk show host is hoping to bring attention to the seriousness of the pandemic with her new special, Oprah Talks COVID-19 — The Deadly Impact on Black America.
Winfrey promoted the presentation on the Today show Tuesday, telling Hoda Kotb the virus is "ravaging our community."
"We need to understand for ourselves, that this is so serious," Winfrey explained. "It's taking us out."
Winfrey suffered a serious case of pneumonia in September and told Kotb that her "lungs never really fully cleared."
"So the moment I heard preexisting conditions, I'm like, 'Lock the door, nobody coming in here,''' she declared.
"It's not only ravaging our community but people who have preexisting conditions, which I think people didn't hear that," Winfrey added. "So if you are taking medication for your diabetes, if you're taking medication because of hypertension, if you need an asthma inhaler for asthma, if you have any kind of lung disorder."
Winfrey also noted that staying home isn't an option for people in the community.
"We as a people, as African Americans, have jobs that require us to be at work," she said. "For so many African Americans, there isn't this ability to telecommute."
Winfrey wants to raise awareness about the deadly and disproportionate impact the coronavirus is having on African Americans. For her special, she spoke to people facing the crisis "head-on," including families, journalists and leaders, like Chicago's mayor, Lori Lightfoot. Mayor Lightfoot speaks to Winfrey about social distancing challenges in Chicago.
"In the realities of black Chicago, people live in confined spaces, people have intergenerational folks that live in their household, so we gotta tailor that message to meet the realities of what's going on there," Lightfoot shares. "Black folks have to go to work. Many of them don't have the luxury to sit at home and telecommute, they are on the front lines, they have jobs that demand they attend every single day."
CNN's Van Jones discusses how he feels African Americans aren’t understanding warnings around preexisting conditions.
"We have to talk to our folk in the way our folk can understand,” he tells Winfrey. "I could see it wasn't landing," he tells Winfrey. Because why? Because black people turn out to be at the center of the pandemic. But if you say, 'If you have a comorbidity blah blah blah.' Well, no doctor ever told me I had a comorbidity. They might have told me I have 'sugar,' that's how black folk refer to diabetes... I got pressure, you know, hypertension. I have an inhaler. All that means you are at risk of dying at 20 years old, 30 years old, 40 years old from this virus."
Jones continues, "Nobody was saying that. And so we were thinking, look, it's an old white folks thing. I ain't gone to Asia, I'm not in a nursing home, I'm young, I'm not worried. You gonna be dead if you take pills every day and walk around without a mask, how about that? So, I just wanted to get as real as I could with it."
Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones talks about the link between COVID-19 and "man-made racial inequality.”
"What we hear is, well yes, black people are more likely to have asthma, black people are more likely to have hypertension," Hannah-Jones explains. "But these conditions didn't come out of thin air. It's not simply that black people are making bad lifestyle choices."
Hannah-Jones continues, "It's that we know black people are disproportionately in neighborhoods located next to toxic waste sites and next to highways, which is why we have such high asthma rates. We know that black people are the most segregated of all racial groups, which means we are in neighborhoods that don't have access to fresh equality food, which leads to hypertension. This is the type of created man-made environment that black people are suffering from right now."
Winfrey announced she is donating $10 million to help the African American community combat the coronavirus. Oprah Talks COVID-19 - The Deadly Impact On Black America is available for free on Apple TV+ and in a special airing on OWN Tuesday night.
For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC and WHO’s resource guides.
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