Oprah Winfrey, Van Jones Discuss Coronavirus' Effect on Black Community

"Black people turn out to be at the center of the pandemic," the CNN host and Reform Alliance CEO told Winfrey over video conference on the latest segment of her Apple TV+ series, 'Oprah Talks COVID-19.'

In her ongoing special series for Apple TV+, Oprah Talks COVID-19, Oprah Winfrey hosts virtual conversations with guests to dicuss issues and information surround the current pandemic. Her latest presentation, titled "The Deadly Impact on Black America," features discourses with CNN host and Reform Alliance CEO Van Jones, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, New York Times staff writer and 1619 Project founder Nikole Hannah-Jones and Dr. Aletha Maybank, chief health equity officer at the American Medical Association, along with a special musical performance from Jennifer Hudson.

The guests all spoke with Winfrey about the COVID-19 pandemic's disproportionate effect on the black community. "Black people turn out to be at the center of the pandemic," Jones told Winfrey over video conference. He argued that black Americans did not make the connection between their own diabetes, hypertension and asthma as putting them at high risk for COVID-19.

"'We thought it was an old white folks thing,'" Jones said of the black community. "'I'm not going to Asia. I'm not in a nursing home. I'm young. I'm not worried,'" he said, describing the mentality he found throughout much of black America. "You're going to be dead if you take pills every day and walk around without a mask."

Hannah-Jones asserted that "man-made racial inequality" has led to the overwhelming disparity in COVID-19 deaths: "These conditions didn't come out of thin air. It's not that black people are making bad lifestyle choices, it's that we know that black people are disproportionately in neighborhoods next to toxic waste sites and highways, which is why we have such high asthma rates."

Lightfoot told Winfrey that social distancing is a unique challenge for "Black Chicago," saying, "People live in confined spaces. People have intergenerational folks that live in their household."

The purpose of the series is to help viewers "mindfully move through a crisis," according to Apple, while "holding on to ourselves and our humanity." Winfrey's remote conversations with experts are meant to offer "insight, meaning and tangible advice for the human spirit."

The conversation is currently available to watch for free on Apple TV+ and is set to air Tuesday at 11 p.m. ET/PT on OWN.