Oprah stresses seriousness of coronavirus on black community: 'It's taking us out'

Oprah Winfrey is sounding the alarm about the seriousness of coronavirus and its disproportionate effect on the African American community.

The television mogul explores the impact of the illness on the black community in the latest installment of her "Oprah Talks COVID-19" series, which is available for free on Apple TV+ starting Tuesday. She spoke with Hoda Kotb about the latest installment on TODAY Tuesday.

"It's not only ravaging our community, but people who have preexisting conditions, which I think people didn't hear that," Winfrey said. "So if you are taking medication for your diabetes, if you're taking medication because of hypertension, if you need an asthma inhaler for asthma, if you have any kind of lung disorder."

Black Americans face alarming rates of coronavirus in some states

Winfrey is also concerned for herself because she revealed in September that she had suffered a serious case of pneumonia that resulted in a trip to the emergency room. She said Tuesday that her "lungs never really fully cleared" from that illness.

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"So the moment I heard preexisting conditions, I'm like, 'Lock the door, nobody coming in here,''' Winfrey said.

Winfrey has joined fellow film and TV mogul Tyler Perry and other prominent African American voices in spreading the word about the seriousness of the coronavirus. A report released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that severe cases of COVID-19 are disproportionately affecting African Americans.

Winfrey previously discussed the seriousness of the coronavirus in an episode on Apple TV+ with British actor Idris Elba, who was one of the first celebrities to reveal he had been diagnosed with it last month.

In addition to the African American doctors and nurses working on the front lines to fight coronavirus, many African Americans have service jobs like grocery workers, bus drivers and pharmacy employees that prevent them from staying home and expose them to the virus.

Jason Hargrove, an African American bus driver from Detroit, died from coronavirus two weeks after posting a video complaining about a passenger who he said refused to cover her mouth while coughing.

"We as a people, as African Americans, have jobs that require us to be at work," Winfrey said. "For so many African Americans, there isn't this ability to telecommute."

Winfrey has also announced she is donating $10 million to help the African American community combat coronavirus. She is collaborating with black ministers in Nashville, Tennessee, and also working with community leaders in Chicago and Milwaukee.

"I love the idea of getting money directly into the hands of people," she said.