‘3 times more likely to die’: Coronavirus ravages Milwaukee’s African American community

By Corrinne Hess, Wisconsin Public Radio

It started as a fever in mid-March. Then Lawrence Riley had trouble catching his breath.

His daughter, Whitley Riley, 20, said Lawrence’s fever broke. But then, he got worse.

“My mamma had to get him dressed,” Whitley said. “He just wasn’t his normal self.”

Whitley Riley and her father Lawrence, at her High School graduation on May 18, 2019. Lawrence was the first person to die from complications of COVID-19 in Milwaukee County on March 19, 2020. Photo courtesy of the Riley family

On March 16, the 66-year-old Navy veteran and former Milwaukee firefighter was taken to the hospital.

Three days later, Lawrence was the first person in Milwaukee County to die from complications of the novel coronavirus.

Whitley said her dad had a chronic inflammatory lung disease, known as COPD, but before he tested positive for the virus, her family didn’t realize COVID-19 had reached Milwaukee.

“We knew that the virus had hit America, but we didn’t think that it had hit Wisconsin or Milwaukee,” she said. “When they took him in and tested him right away, that was just a shock because we didn’t think the virus had hit us.”

As of Monday, there have been 4,051 cases of COVID-19 in Milwaukee County and 221 deaths. African Americans represent about a quarter of the county’s population but account for almost half of the deaths. Read more …