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COVID-19 hits Alabama hardest in Black Belt


One region of Alabama has been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new study by University of Alabama Educational Policy Center says six counties in Alabama’s Black Belt have the state’s highest COVID death rates. Lowndes County had the highest death rate in the state with almost 700 fatalities per 100,000 residents.

Research assistant Sean O’Brien said the Black Belt had a particularly high COVID death rate in 2020.

“In 2020, the average COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 in Black Belt counties was 218, which is about 30% greater than what it was in non-Black Belt counties. It was only 168 per 100,000,” he said.

O'Brien said the Black Belt has a critical lack of healthcare infrastructure. Many counties in that region don’t have a hospital.

“A big part of our brief discusses the lack of healthcare workers in the Black Belt. Our other main policy recommendation is incentivizing healthcare professionals to come work in the Black Belt," he said. "That isn’t just by offering them higher pay, but also by offering other incentives like housing accommodation, student loan forgiveness, or assistance with childcare.”

The University of Alabama Educational Policy Center will release more briefs on the Black Belt throughout the year.

Libby Foster is a news intern for Alabama Public Radio.
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