MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WOOD) — In Muskegon County, the death rate for COVID-19 patients is more than twice the state average. That’s leading to questions about whether the message of social distancing is reaching some minority areas.
In a county where 80% of the population is white, nearly half the 41 patients who have tested positive are black: 18 black, 13 white, one Asian and nine cases in which the race isn’t listed.
Three of the four who have died in the county were black, including 57-year-old Lloyd Evans, who lived in a Muskegon Heights group home on social security for a lifelong learning disability. He died April 3 in that home.
He was the youngest of eight siblings.
“He’s my baby brother,” said his brother, Speregon Evans of Detroit. “He wasn’t poor, but he wasn’t rich either.”
His biggest joy, his brother said, was walking to church and praising God.
“Church going. That was his thing. He went to church,” he said.
He always walked to nearby Greater Anointing Apostolic Faith Church in Muskegon Heights, his brother said.
“I’ve never seen him mad,” his brother said. “He’s just a happy guy, you know. Living his life, and he lived it for God.”
Lloyd Evans went to church Sunday, March 29, his brother said, then again last week Wednesday, April 1, for a Bible study. He was already sick at the Bible study, he later learned.
“He got home, went to bed and they called us on Friday (April 3) and told us he was gone,” his brother said.
Health officials told News 8 that Evans was hospitalized briefly, treated as an inpatient, tested for COVID-19, then sent back to the unidentified group home, where he died.
His brother said he doesn’t know how he caught the virus. He suffered high blood pressure and took medication for a heart problem.
In Muskegon County, the mortality rate for COVID-19 so far is nearly 1 in 10 — four deaths of 41 positive tests — twice the state average.
“Right now, we don’t really have enough cases to say that’s going to be a continuing trend,” Muskegon County Public Health Director Kathy Moore said. “Statistically, we’re seeing that COVID-19 is impacting our minority and urban community disproportionately.”
It could mean, she said, that urban areas aren’t getting the social distancing message.
“Some of our messaging may need to be better tailored to the minority community,” she said.
On Monday, some of Evans’ family drove to a Muskegon funeral home from Detroit to identify him. They weren’t allowed inside, so the home took a picture of his body.
“Brought it out to us, so that’s how we identified him,” his brother said.
He said they decided to cremate his body and are not holding a service.
News 8 reached out to the group home where Evans lived and his church, but hasn’t heard back.