Arab Americans Were Dying From Covid-19 But the Government Wasn’t Counting

by Jan Frazier

Chicago (Washington Insider Magazine) By the time that they were able to take her mother, Ayush, to the hospital, Arwa says that she was in a coma. She was taken directly to the ICU and there she passed away.

According to health experts, there are “many factors that point to Arab-Americans being a high-risk group for contracting Covid-19.” Communities say that they have watched countless funerals as the death from COVID devastated them. ”Because local and federal governments don’t track data on Arabs specifically, no one knows how many contracted the virus or died. Advocates say lives could have been saved early on if they had hard data.”

The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office claims that they document Covid-19 deaths as well as their locations. They are able to determine the hardest-hit areas of the county, especially Black and Latino communities. However, there is not a category for Arabs. It is not possible for documentation to be gathered from that group of people.

As the pandemic started, several towns where Arabs lived were among the hardest hit. During May 2020, which was a very high peak of the first wave of the virus, Bridgeview, Palos Heights, and Summit were hit hard. They are vibrant communities of Arabs.  Bridgeview and the Bridgeview Mosque Foundation “had the seventh-highest rate of new covid cases of any city in the state.”

Hatem Abudayyeh, Executive Director of AAAN, claimed that Arab communities saw what so many communities of color saw. Many of these communities have “difficult times socioeconomically,” stated Abudayyeh, and they also suffered through the pandemic.  “But it’s nearly impossible to know exactly how many fell sick or died because their race or ethnicity wasn’t documented in a way that would indicate they were Arab.”

Arwa said that her mother’s death had been listed as “other.” Arwa further claimed “I feel like we’re not noticed. I feel like we’re left behind. And I think they should consider us like we are part of America.”

Abdelkarim Haj experienced a similar situation, claims his nephew, Husam Farraj. Farraj said that his late uncle was “very proud of his Palestinian identity.” However, the news reporter for CBS 2 found Haj, who died in December 2020, had been designated “Asian” by the Cook County Medical Examiners. Hogg continued, “My uncle didn’t consider himself that at all, nor did I, nor did the people around him.”

Itedal Shalabi, co-founder of Arab American Family Services (AAFS) stated, ”This is part of our continuous struggle for the past 20 years that we’ve started this organization. We continuously have to chase the funding, we continuously have to knock on peoples’ doors, we continuously have to say that, here’s a community that is in dire need.”

Shalabi continued, “The reality is of not having information and being able to identify the number of people that died in our community because of Covid; it’s heartbreaking.”


Related Posts