Rep. Park Cannon urges African-Americans to listen to health professionals, not state officials on COVID-19

Dist. 58 State Rep. Park Cannon

State Rep. Park Cannon, whose 58th district covers neighborhoods in Fulton and DeKalb Counties, has a message for the African-American community when it comes to COVID-19: “Listen to public health professionals who are on the frontlines instead of state officials who want to save face.”

Cannon is one of a number of African-American leaders sounding the alarm that coronavirus is disproportionately affecting their community – a fact that Gov. Brian Kemp and other state officials never mention during briefings or consider when making decisions like reopening businesses and restaurant dining rooms, Cannon said.

The Washington Post reported over the weekend African-Americans accounted for more than 50 percent of Georgia’s COVID-19 deaths, despite making up about 30 percent of the state’s 10.6 million people.

Cannon said that more than 500 of the 1,052 dead from COVID-19 are African-American.

Cannon said she was especially concerned about the lag in data and the way it’s being reported by the Georgia Department of Public Health. The AJC reported today that numbers of cases and reported deaths continue to change as the department shifts its method of counting cases, which is causing confusion for state officials and residents.

“The Georgia Department of Public Health staff is working around the clock, and I applaud them, but I question the statistics,” Cannon said. “I implore everyone to ask the state to create more fair reporting on the status of black Georgians.”

The latest figures – released at lunchtime on April 29 – show that Fulton and DeKalb counties have the highest number of cases of COVID-19 in the state. Fulton has 2,763 confirmed cases and 108 deaths, while DeKalb has 1,912 cases and 44 deaths.

The state’s figures also bear out Cannon’s concerns, with 38 percent of African-American females and  nearly 34 percent of African-American males making up the largest demographic of COVID-19 cases.

Cannon said Gov. Kemp’s decision to ignore federal guidelines and begin reopening businesses was a “dereliction in senior leadership in their duty to protect Georgians.”

Cannon encouraged African-American residents to speak with their doctors and health professionals and check the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus website at gablackcaucus.org and the Georgia NAACP website at naacpga.org for regular updates on how COVID-19 is affecting the community.

“People of color have proven ourselves resilient to pandemics, so we do have hope,” Cannon said.