Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins had a hunch. He had used data compiled for emergency responders in late March to create a computerized map showing cases of the novel coronavirus by address. A cluster of red pins curved around downtown and extended into black neighborhoods toward the city’s western edge.
At the time, policymakers and public health experts studying the still mysterious disease had been focusing on risk factors such as international travel, age and chronic health conditions including diabetes and heart disease — not race. Most states — including Louisiana — weren’t even publicly tracking race-related data about the virus’s impact.
But Perkins’s map was showing him that ignoring race could be a catastrophic mistake.
“People in these areas need to know their neighborhoods are being affected disproportionately,” he said.
It was a rare, early action aimed at halting the spread of the coronavirus among African Americans, who bore the brunt of the disease across the country as attention and resources flowed elsewhere.