Thousands of doctors and health professionals have written an open letter in support of anti-Black racism protests during the novel coronavirus pandemic, stating that “white supremacy is a lethal public health issue that predates and contributes to COVID-19.”

The letter, signed by 1,288 public health and infectious diseases experts as well as community stakeholders, says that Black people suffer from “dramatic health disparities” in life expectancy and chronic medical conditions, which stem from long-standing systems of oppression and bias in the health-care system.

Black communities are also subjected to “decreased access to medical care and healthy food, unsafe working conditions, mass incarceration, exposure to pollution and noise and the toxic effects of stress,” the health-care professionals wrote.

READ MORE: Black neighbourhoods in Toronto are hit hardest by COVID-19 — and it’s ‘anchored in racism’

The signatories, based both in the U.S. and Canada, wrote that health best practices, including physical distancing, handwashing and wearing a mask, are encouraged during protests, but the COVID-19 pandemic should not be used to prevent people from gathering.

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In recent weeks,