Economic disparities, lack of access to healthcare, and the impossibility of working from home are behind the disparate impact of COVID-19.
On June 15, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report showing glaring statistics on how the coronavirus has impacted Blacks and Latinos in the nation, including the underlying conditions that make it difficult to fight the disease.
The CDC examined 1,320,488 COVID-19 cases, between January 22 and May 30. Despite the fact that Latinos only make up 18 percent of the U.S. population, and Blacks make 13 percent, these two communities have been the most affected by the coronavirus compared to whites. The CDC found that 33% of Latinos were infected with COVID-19, and 22% were black. Another 1.3% were non-Latino American Indian or Alaska Native. The rest of the test group did not provide information on race.
Among those who contracted the disease, the study found a prevalence underlying health conditions, including cardiovascular disease (32%), diabetes (30%), and chronic lung disease (18%), which also explains a higher prevalence in communities of color as, like the CDC has previously reported, there is higher prevalence rates of chronic conditions in them. The report also showed that hospitalizations were six times higher, and deaths were 12 times higher among those with reported underlying conditions.
“These findings suggest that persons in these groups (…) are disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the report states. The CDC added that this study is consistent with previously reported data that “found higher proportions of Black and Hispanic persons among hospitalized COVID-19 patients.”
Focusing further on the disparities of COVID-19 and how white people are less impacted by the disease than Blacks and Latinos is a matter of racial inequalities such as access to health care and working on the frontline during the pandemic.
Due to the failing healthcare system, Blacks and Latinos are likely to skip annual doctor visits. As the CDC previously noted, “compared to whites, Latinos are almost three times as likely to be uninsured, and Black Americans are almost twice as likely to be uninsured. In all age groups, Black people are more likely than whites to report not being able to see a doctor in the past year because of cost.”
“The reasons why communities of color are most at-risk from COVID-19 are varied, ranging from deep-seated structural inequities in access to health care to racism and bias in the health care industry itself,” said Dr. Jamila K. Taylor, director of health care reform and senior fellow at The Century Foundation. “It’s true that the virus doesn’t discriminate. But we, its host, do. Our policies and practices, in effect, steer the virus toward our most vulnerable communities, and we then fail to protect and treat those communities before it’s too late.”
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Another reason why a majority of Blacks and Latinos are infected with the coronavirus is that they can’t keep social distance on a regular basis. With professions such as janitors, food delivery or bus drivers, many in these communities don’t have the option to work remotely.
“Are more public workers Latino and African-American?” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said back in April. “Who don’t have a choice, frankly, but to go out there every day and drive the bus and drive the train and show up for work and wind up subjecting themselves to —in this case— the virus. Whereas many other people who had the option just absented themselves.”