Black Americans are more than twice as likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 compared to non-Hispanic whites, a new study finds. The research, published in the journal Health Affairs, reflects what states and communities across the country have reported: Communities of color are getting hit hardest by the coronavirus and the illness and death it causes.
For the study, researchers analyzed more than 1,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 at a large Northern California-based health care system from Jan. 1 through April 8 and found that African Americans had 2.7 times the odds of hospitalization for COVID-19 as their non-Hispanic white counterparts. What's more, a higher proportion of black patients were transferred to the intensive care unit than non-Hispanic white patients.
Similar findings have been reported across the country. A study published May 27 in the New England Journal of Medicine, for example, 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 Georgia, more than 80 percent of 305 adult patients hospitalized with coronavirus complications were black, an analysis published May 8 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found.
The black population is also shouldering a disproportionate number of deaths from the coronavirus. Blacks account for nearly 23 percent of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. to date, even though blacks make up about 13 percent of the country's population, according to the latest data from the CDC. In several states, including Michigan, Arkansas and Alabama, and in the District of Columbia, the disparity in deaths is even more pronounced.
Jobs, health care contribute to inequities
Health experts point to a number of factors that may influence the virus’ disproportionate impact on black Americans. Chronic health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, increase risk for severe illness from COVID-19, and black Americans “continue to bear a disproportionate burden” of these ailments, the authors of the Health Affairs study write.