Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the “underlying problems” of racial inequity in the U.S. need to be addressed in order to stop the coronavirus pandemic which is impacting communities of color at disproportionate rates. 

“I think it’s a symptom of broader racial inequities in our country that we need to work to resolve,” he said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Gottlieb said the issue needs to be addressed at two levels: why there are higher rates of COVID-19 and higher death rates from the coronavirus among black Americans.

“And the first has to do with a lot of issues of socioeconomic factors, low income issues related to overcrowded housing, where people work, the fact that they have to take crowded transportation, that they work in essential jobs, that they’ve had to continue to work and didn’t have good PPE at work,” he said. “We’ve seen black communities and Hispanic and Latino communities disproportionately in these kinds of circumstances.”

The second issue, on higher death rates, he said is due to poor access to heath care, as well as “mistrust of the health care system” and “some discrimination” in health care. 

“Stopping the pandemic is going to depend on our ability to take care of our most medically and socially vulnerable. We absolutely need to resolve these underlying problems to eliminate the risk of pandemic spreading of the epidemic,” he said. 

CBS’s Margaret Brennan asked Gottlieb what the response should be from elected officials. 

“It’s taking resources and trying to get it into communities that you know are being disproportionately impacted by the disease,” he said. “You think of people from communities that are disadvantaged. They already lack access to health care. They lack access to testing. So they’re not only at higher risk, they don’t have the same health care opportunities.”

He also said officials need to “make sure that COVID doesn’t become punitive,” and that being diagnosed with the disease doesn’t mean someone will lose their job. 

“We need to encourage them to get tested and self-identify,” he said.

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