Oprah Emphasizes The Danger COVID-19 Presents For Black Americans: 'It's Taking Us Out'
Oprah gave a wide-ranging interview about the coronavirus and its damaging effect on the Black community.
April 14, 2020 at 10:14 pm
Oprah Winfrey sat down with Today host Hoda Kotb on Tuesday to discuss the coronavirus pandemic and how the virus is affecting Black Americans across the country, saying plainly that it was "taking us out."
"Its not only ravaging our community but people who have preexisting conditions…I am still concerned about myself from pneumonia because my lungs never really fully cleared," says @Oprah on the impact of coronavirus on the black community. pic.twitter.com/8nlN0en3Df
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) April 14, 2020
"It's not only ravaging our community, but people who have preexisting conditions, which I think people didn't hear that. 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, which I am still concerned about myself from pneumonia because my lungs never fully cleared. So the moment I heard preexisting conditions, I'm like, 'Lock the door, nobody coming in here,''' Winfrey said.
Winfrey highlighted her new Oprah Talks COVID-19 series, which is available for free on Apple TV+.
"One of the things we're talking about in the special is the need for more testing stations obviously, but more importantly I think it's important for African Americans to understand for ourselves that this is so serious,'' the mogul said. "It's taking us out. It's killing your cousins and your friends and your neighbors. And you need to do whatever you can to protect yourself."
Winfrey said her conversation with Elba enlightened her about how many Black people initially perceived the coronavirus.
When coronavirus first emerged in January, it was concentrated in China and Europe, leading to jokes within the community that it was not an issue for Black people. This misconception has had deadly consequences as many major cities in America report Black people are both contracting and dying from the virus more than almost every other race.
"That's the first time I had heard about the rumor. He was dispelling the rumor. I didn't even take the rumor seriously, and this was three weeks ago. I thought 'Who is going to believe that?' Not only is it serious but people that you don't know, but probably will know, are losing their loved ones," she told Kotb.
The Today host also mentioned how many Black people are working in essential jobs and employed with companies that have stayed open amid the pandemic. Kotb then referenced the story of Jason Hargrove, a Detroit bus driver who died from COVID-19 after being seen in a video bemoaning a woman who'd been openly coughing on the bus, as Blavity previously reported.
"We as a people, as African Americans, have jobs that require us to be at work. For so many African Americans, there isn't this ability to telecommute. We certainly understand that the responsibilities and dynamics of some people's lives, particularly African American and brown people, do not allow you to be able to stay at home. Therefore they need masks. You need masks in these grocery stores. All these grocery store workers that are out there without masks, that should not be," Winfrey said, adding that her series delves into the fact that there needs to be more testing within the Black community so people can be helped.
In addition to her new show centered on the pandemic, Winfrey is teaming up with Tyler Perry to spread the word about concerns related to the virus within the Black community. She is donating $10 million to help Black people through a number of churches and organizations in Nashville, Chicago and Milwaukee.
"I love the idea of getting money directly into the hands of people," she told NBC News.
HBCUs are facing many challenges managing coronavirus responses and need your support. Donate to the UNCF fund today to help students impacted by the pandemic.