The effects of COVID-19 on the health of racial and ethnic minority groups is still emerging; however, current data suggest a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups. A recent CDC MMWR report included race and ethnicity data from 580 patients hospitalized with lab-confirmed COVID-19 found that 45% of individuals for whom race or ethnicity data was available were white, compared to 59% of individuals in the surrounding community. However, 33% of hospitalized patients were black, compared to 18% in the community, and 8% were Hispanic, compared to 14% in the community. These data suggest an over representation of blacks among hospitalized patients. Among COVID-19 deaths for which race and ethnicity data were available, identified death rates among black/African American persons (92.3 deaths per 100,000 population) and Hispanic/Latino persons (74.3) that were substantially higher than that of white (45.2) or Asian (34.5) persons. Studies are underway to confirm these data and understand and potentially reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the health of racial and ethnic minorities.

Underlying health conditions and lower access to care

Existing health disparities, such as poorer underlying health and barriers to getting health care, might make members of many racial and ethnic minority groups especially vulnerable in public health emergencies like outbreaks of COVID-19.

  • Not having health insurance: Compared to whites, Hispanics are almost three times as likely to be uninsured, and African Americans are almost twice as likely to be uninsured.9 In all age groups, blacks are more likely than whites to report not being able to see a doctor in the past year because of cost.10
  • Inadequate access is also driven by a long-standing distrust of the health care system, language barriers, and financial implications associated with missing work to receive care.
  • Serious underlying medical conditions: Compared to whites, black Americans experience higher death rates and higher prevalence rates of chronic conditions.10
  • Stigma and systemic inequalities may undermine prevention efforts, increase levels of chronic and toxic stress, and ultimately sustain health and healthcare disparities.

What can be done?

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