Dr. Anthony Fauci took a break from the Sunday morning news circuit to join a graduation ceremony at Emory University in Atlanta, highlighting racial disparities in the pandemic. Fauci pointed out that underprivileged communities have persistently higher rates of COVID-19’s most severe comorbidities, calling on the nation’s leadership to address the social factors behind the inequality.

“COVID-19 has shown a bright light on our own society’s failings,” he said, specifying that Black, Latino and Native American populations were more likely to work essential jobs and suffer higher rates of hypertension, chronic lung disease, diabetes and obesity.

He was careful to highlight that the reason for these discrepancies lies not in genetics but in social factors.

“Very few of these comorbidities have racial determinants,” Fauci said. “Almost all relate to the social determinants of health dating back to disadvantageous conditions that some people of color find themselves in from birth regarding the availability of an adequate diet, access to health care and the undeniable effects of racism in our society.”

The CDC’s statistics show that people of color are around three times more likely to be hospitalized by COVID-19 and around twice as likely to die.

Fauci made similar comments in December, when he noted the racial disparities from the pandemic at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing entitled, "Oversight of the Trump Administration's Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic." Fauci said the Black community faced a "double whammy."

Fauci joined Sunday's ceremony remotely to receive the Emory University president’s medal, putting him alongside such previous recipients as former President Jimmy Carter, the Dalai Lama and the late John Lewis, a congressman and civil right leader.

In addition to his comments on race, Fauci congratulated the graduating class on attaining the milestone during extraordinary times.

“Not since the influenza pandemic of 1918 has humanity faced a public health crisis of this magnitude,” he said. “Each of you deserves enormous respect for your extraordinary adaptability, resilience and dedication to learning, completing your studies and graduating despite immense difficulties and uncertainties.”

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Top U.S. pandemic advisor Anthony Fauci is pictured. AFP / SAUL LOEB