In the eight-month period between March 1 to November 7, there were 70,825 hospitalizations reported to the CDC. While White and non-Hispanic Black people represented the highest number of hospitalizations, racial and ethnic groups were disproportionately impacted.
The same was true for American Indian or Alaska Native and non-Hispanic Black people, who were hospitalized about 4.1 and 3.9 times the rate of non-Hispanic White persons, the CDC said.
Health officials have sounded the alarm for months about this trend — and public health experts say it won’t change unless the very compounding factors that put these groups in disadvantage are addressed.
Some communities of color, including Latinos and African Americans, are often uninsured or distrust the health care system. They have higher rates of conditions like hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, which can lead to more severe reactions to Covid-19, Cooper said.
If they get sick, many are afraid their health may impact their ability to financially support their families in the short and long-term.
“These are real situations that people have to deal with that impact the possibility that people feel like they don’t have a choice in terms of being able to stay home even if they have symptoms that could be in fact Covid-19 symptoms,” said Chen, whose research focuses on social inequalities in health.
Learning that Black and Latinos were at a higher risk of Covid-19 complications has influenced some of the decisions that families are taking.
Irene Skinner, who lives in Jefferson County, Alabama, has five daughters who are attending virtual classes to avoid getting exposed to the virus.
Van Phillips, principal at the high school that one of Skinner’s daughters attends, reached out to families to explain how Covid-19 disproportionately impacts Black and Hispanic people.
Now, the school has the highest percentage of students learning from home, WBRC reported, citing data provided by Jefferson County Schools.
“There are just some things that we have to do to save our lives,” Phillips told WBRC.
For Chen, the CDC’s findings should be a wake-up call for health officials to think about the distribution of personal protective equipment, sensible sick pay policies and the potential distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine.
“The demographics tell part of the story but they should really direct us to think about how do we target populations that will benefit the most in terms of protecting them,” Chen said.
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