As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the U.S., trends are showing that minority groups are disproportionately impacted by the disease and tend to experience more severe outcomes. These troubling statistics pose the questions: why are minorities more vulnerable, and what can we do about it?
Rates of COVID-19 Cases by Race and Ethnicity
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, non-Hispanic Blacks have a COVID-19 hospitalization rate five times that of non-Hispanic whites, while Hispanic or Latino people have a rate approximately four times that of non-Hispanic whites. This data varies state-by-state, depending on a number of factors.
According to the APM Research Lab, the number of COVID-19 deaths in Texas is more than double for Latino people and 3.5 times higher for non-Hispanic Blacks than for non-Hispanic whites when adjusted for age. When viewed next to the amount of the Texas population they make up (non-Hispanic whites = 41.2%, Hispanic or Latino people = 39.7%, and non-Hispanic Blacks = 12.9%), these figures become even more troubling.
“We are seeing Blacks and Latinos affected at higher proportions than we saw when this pandemic started,” said Dr. Gina Blocker, an emergency physician at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center.
Why Are There Higher Rates of COVID-19 Among Minorities?
The difference in rates of COVID-19 infections isn’t genetic but rather socioeconomic. Minorities are more likely to be “essential workers” and are less likely to be able to telecommute to work, meaning they are exposed to more people. Additionally, they’re more likely to live in densely populated areas, so it’s harder for them to socially distance. Some of these workers don’t have a car and instead rely on public transportation to get to work, run necessary errands, and seek medical care. Minorities are also more likely to have chronic health conditions, like heart disease or diabetes, which can lead to more severe COVID-19 symptoms.
Additionally, minorities tend to make less than non-Hispanic whites, which could result in reduced savings. They’re also more likely to be uninsured. These factors can make seeking medical care daunting.
Chronic health conditions that can result in more severe COVID-19 symptoms are caused by the same issues that also cause poverty, hunger, substance abuse, violence, and other social disparities. At St. Luke’s Health, we believe that fairness and opportunities stem from access to quality healthcare.
As caregivers, we have a special voice that can illuminate where our society fails to treat people of color with the dignity that everyone in our nation deserves. Doug Lawson, CEO of St. Luke’s Health, shared this message, “Our mission, the very basis of our ministry, is to make the healing presence of God known in our world while we advance social justice for all in our community — not just those who look like us, think like us, or worship like us.”
CDC | COVID-19 in Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups
AARP | Blacks, Hispanics Hit Harder by the Coronavirus, Early U.S. Data Show
NPR | What Do Coronavirus Racial Disparities Look Like State By State?
APM Research Lab | THE COLOR OF CORONAVIRUS: COVID-19 DEATHS BY RACE AND ETHNICITY IN THE U.S.
United States Census Bureau | QuickFacts Texas