Asli Farah caught COVID-19 from a co-worker she carpooled with to her job at an Edmonton warehouse.
When health authorities sent Farah to get tested, she had to take two city buses — her only means of transport.
Then came self-isolation — holed up in her room for two weeks and unable to get treatment for an infected tooth.
“I remember feeling like I was in jail in my own house,” Farah recalled in an interview with CBC News.
As a recent immigrant to Canada, she faced the additional challenge of a language barrier, making it even harder to access information or medical help.
“I was really sad,” Farah said. “I was in a lot of pain. I feel that people that go through self isolation should receive a lot of support.”
Farah’s experience reflects the findings of a groundbreaking new study that reveals COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting the health and finances of Black Canadians.
Black Canadians are more likely than other Canadians to seek treatment, experience layoffs due to the virus, and more likely to report feeling more at risk on their commute to work, the research reveals.
The study, a partnership between the Edmonton-based African-Canadian Civic Engagement Council and Innovative Research Group, looks at health and economic impacts of COVID-19 from the perspectives of Black Canadians and those in the broader Canadian population.
The study — its authors say it appears to be the first of its kind — comes after warnings from advocates, researchers and social agencies across Canada that a lack of race-based data is a barrier to ensuring those most impacted by the pandemic get the help they need.
Dunia Nur, president of the African-Canadian Civic Engagement Council, said the research tells a largely untold story about the lived experience of Black Canadians around COVID-19.
“Data will give communities the opportunity to apply for funding and say, ‘This is what it says in Alberta, this is what it says in Ontario, therefore we definitely need support here,'” Nur said.
“Anecdotally, we hear the story, but now the story is alive and is living through empirical research.”
The study’s findings show Black Canadians are more likely than other Canadians to be infected or hospitalized, and nearly three times more likely to know someone who has died from the virus.
The study shows that Black communities are experiencing layoffs, reduced hours and a reduction in household incomes at higher rates, with men over 45 being hardest hit.
Fifty-six per cent of Black respondents said their job, or the job of someone they knew, had been affected, compared to the national average of 46 per cent.
The study also reveals why Black Canadians may be more heavily impacted by the pandemic.
Findings revealed that while Black Canadians are confident about the precautions they are taking, they feel their daily routines put them at greater risk of catching COVID-19.
Black Canadians reported at higher rates that their jobs require them to work face-to-face with people and that, no matter how well they protect themselves, they feel their daily routine puts them at high risk of infection.
Among commuters, Black Canadians are twice as likely than the national average to feel their commute to work is unsafe, with Black commuters more likely to experience symptoms or seek medical treatment.