Black and Hispanics at greater risk of coronavirus infection and death in rich and poor towns

Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely to be infected with and die from the novel coronavirus, regardless of where they live, a new study suggests.

Researchers found almost three times the number of cases and and deaths in wealthy minority neighborhoods compared to similar areas that have mostly white residents.

This was true across 10 major US cities including New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles, according to New York University Grossman School of Medicine.

What’s more, when limited to low-income counties, the risk of infection and deaths for black and Hispanics from non-white neighborhoods was eight to nine times greater than those living in predominantly Caucasian towns. 

Blacks and Hispanics in low-income and minority neighborhoods in the US  had eight times the infection risk of whites in low-income and mainly white towns. Pictured: A healthcare worker tends to a patient in the COVID-19 Unit at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas, July 2

‘While we expected to see greater numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths in predominantly non-white, low-income communities, we were surprised that this relationship still held even after we accounted for poverty rates,’ said lead author Dr Samrachana Adhikari, an assistant professor in the department of Population Health at NYU Grossman. 

‘Given our findings, we believe that structural racism may explain these racial disparities in number of cases and deaths noted in Black counties.’ 

For the study, published in JAMA Network Open, the team analyzed data from the 2018 US Census Small Areas Income and Poverty Estimates program, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state health departments.   

Researchers focused on 10 large US cities: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia and Seattle.

Cases and deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, were examined per 100,000 people across 158 counties in these cities.

The team says infections in these areas account for 64 percent of all cases through May 10 in the nation.     

Of the 158 counties, 51.3 percent were considered ‘less poverty’ counties with a median income of $79,834.

The remaining 48.7 percent were labeled ‘more poverty’ counties with a median income of $60,240. 

In the poorer counties that were mostly made up of non-whites, the coronavirus infection was nearly eight times that of a county with mostly white people.

Additionally, the death rate was more than than nine times greater in minority neighborhoods than in white neighborhoods. 

However, the same was true in the ‘less poverty’ counties. 

In this case, more affluent areas made up of minorities saw about three times as many infections and deaths as the richer Caucasian towns.  

‘We have known for decades that racism kills,’ said co-author Dr Gbenga Ogedegbe, a professor of Population Health and Medicine at NYU Langone.

‘Racism is a public health issue which has been implicated in the racial gap in mortality and in health outcomes.’

He adds that the findings indicate that structural racism is an underlying factor causing higher rates of cases and deaths in minority communities.  

‘The fact that non-white residents died from the virus at higher rates than white residents in both wealthier and poorer communities should be a major alarm bell to policymakers at the national and local government levels, academic medical centers, and the country at large,’ Ogedegbe said.

For future research, the team hopes to look at more granular data breaking down residents by race and ethnicity to look at any factors driving these rates.