COVID-19 has had a “disparate impact” on members of the black and Hispanic/Latinx communities in the United States, according to data presented by the Infectious Disease Society of America during a press briefing on Friday.
“Initially, we were just trying to take care of patients as fast as we could. We were trying to keep people alive,” Virginia D. Banks, MD, MBA, FIDSA, an infectious diseases physician at Northeast Ohio Infectious Disease Associates, said during a press briefing. “We didn’t look at race and ethnicity. It wasn’t until April that we were able to step back and see that there was a disproportionate number of individuals from specific communities in our society that are being impacted by this disease.”
Worldwide, there have been more than 4.4 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 300,000 deaths. In the United States alone, more than 1.3 million people have been diagnosed with the disease and more than 80,000 people have died. According to Damani A. Piggott, MD, PhD, IDSA member and assistant dean for graduate biomedical education and graduate student diversity and assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, cases and hospitalizations in New York have been disproportionately higher among communities of color throughout the pandemic.
The latest available data from the CDC demonstrates that blacks, who comprise 12% of the U.S. population, account for 28% of COVID-19 cases and 33% of hospitalizations, whereas Hispanics account for 18% of the U.S. population and 28% of COVID-19 cases, according to Piggott. In addition, data from New York show that blacks and Hispanics are three times more likely to be hospitalized and twice as likely to die from COVID-19.
“Health equity and social determinants of health make it particularly hard for these groups to weather this pandemic,” Piggott said.
The disparate impact of COVID-19 in these groups has highlighted long-standing vulnerabilities in these populations, Piggott continued, including income, employment, housing, food and water security, incarceration and education. These factors have impacted health “for better or worse” over many generations.
“As we continue to face this pandemic and consider these factors, it is crucial for us to also consider who has opportunity and who does not, who has access and who does not, and consider how we close the opportunity and access gaps,” Piggott said. “The virus has shown us that we are all inextricably connected and that, if everyone has opportunities for the best possible health, it ultimately will be for the benefit of us all.” – by Caitlyn Stulpin
Disclosures: Healio could not confirm relevant financial disclosures for Banks and Piggott at the time of publication.