African-Americans are more than twice as likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 a new study finds. Published in the medical journal Health Affairs, this study shows what communities across the country have reported: People of color are getting hit hardest by the virus and the illness and death it causes.
The study found that black Americans had 2.7 times the odds of hospitalization for COVID-19 as white citizens, and a higher proportion of black patients were transferred to the intensive care unit than white patients.
Similar findings have been reported across the country. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine two weeks ago found that nearly 77 percent of COVID-19 patients who were hospitalized in a large Louisiana health system between March 1 and April 11 were black. In an analysis published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that in Georgia, more than 80 percent of patients hospitalized with coronavirus complications were black.
Black Americans also have the burden of a disproportionate number of deaths from the virus. To date, they make up 23 percent of COVID-19 deaths in the USA to date, even though blacks make up about 13 percent of the nation’s population, according to the CDC. In some states, including Michigan, Arkansas and Alabama, and in the District of Columbia, the disparity in deaths is even greater.
Health experts point out that there are many influences to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on black Americans: Chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, increase risk for severe illness from the virus, and black Americans bear a disproportionate burden of these health problems. Employment also plays a role; essential workers basically have no protection and then they bring the virus home. Black workers are more likely to hold jobs in public transit, childcare and health care. Fewer than one in five black workers can work from home, putting them at greater risk for acquiring the virus.
There is also access to health care: African-Americans are more likely than whites to be uninsured, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). The CDC notes that inadequate access to health care is also driven by the financial drain from missing work to receive care. This contributes to delays in treatment, reducing the likelihood of full recovery.
More than 22,000 African Americans, about one in 2,100 of the entire black population in the USA, have died from the virus. Secretary of Health, Alex Azar, pointed to their “greater risk profiles”, blaming the victims of the virus.