American minorities have been hit particularly hard by COVID-19 – and the share of Hispanic people dying of the disease in the US is only growing, a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report suggests.
In May, Hispanic Americans accounted for 16.3 percent of coronavirus deaths in the US. By August, that number had risen to 26.4 percent.
More than half of US pandemic fatalities were white people, but the proportion of black and Hispanic people who have died of COVID-19 is greater than their share of the population.
In part, the increase in deaths among Hispanic people this summer may be due to the shift of outbreaks from the Northeast to the South and West – regions with larger Hispanic populations.
But the CDC’s report suggests that there is more to the racial gap in COVID-19 fatalities than that. Black and Hispanic Americans are still more at-risk for exposure to the virus, more likely to be exposed over and over and, as a result, more likely to die of the infection, the government scientists suggest.
Hispanic and Latinx people made up 26.4% of coronavirus deaths in August, despite making up just 18% of the US population. Their share of deaths rose by 60% from May to August
As of Friday, more than 217,000 people have died of coronavirus in the US. Nearly eight million people have been infected, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The pandemic’s progression has made it clear that the virus does not discriminate, infecting people of all ages, races, ethnicities and genders in the US and the world over.
It does not affect each of these groups equally however.
Elderly people and those with underlying conditions such as heart disease, obesity or diabetes face much higher risks of severe illness and death.
But so do people of color, for reasons that are more social than biological.
According to the latest data released Friday by the CDC, 114,411 people died of coronavirus between May 1 and August 31. Just under 49 percent were people of color.
The other 51.3 percent were white.
Although the majority of people who died were white, the share of white deaths would be more than three-quarters if COVID-19 was affecting people of all races equally.
Instead, black people made up nearly 19 percent of those who died of coronavirus, but make up only about 13 percent of the US population.
Latinx and Hispanic people make up about 18 percent of all Americans, but accounted for more than 24 percent of COVID-19 deaths during those four months.
COVID-19 cases and deaths surged in the South (solid blue line) over the summer, partially accounting for the rise in Hispanic and Latinx deaths, the CDC reports
Perhaps most disconcerting, the share of Latinx deaths increased over the course of the summer, from 16.3 percent of fatalities in May to 26.4 percent in August, the CDC reports.
That coincided with the shift of coronavirus hotspots from the Northeast to the West and South of the US.
Northeastern deaths declined precipitously, accounting for 44.2 percent of all fatalities in May and just four percent in August.
With overwhelming outbreaks in New York City and the tri-state area under control, other parts of the country that had not needed such aggressive mitigation measures in the spring started to see upticks in cases and deaths.
Just over 23 percent of coronavirus deaths in May occurred in the South. By August, the region’s share of deaths had nearly tripled to 62 percent.
And the West’s share of deaths surged from 10.6 percent to 21.4 percent.
‘The observed geographic shifts in COVID-19–associated deaths might be related to differential implementation of community mitigation efforts throughout the nation, including earlier reopening efforts in selected jurisdictions,’ the CDC authors wrote.
‘To prevent the spread of COVID-19, CDC continues to recommend the use of masks, frequent handwashing, and maintenance of social distancing, including avoidance of large gatherings.’
About 38 percent of the Hispanic population of the US lives in the South, and that number is on the rise. Hispanic people make up about 29 percent of the total population of the West, far about the national proportion.
So the rise in deaths among Hispanics might be partially explained by the shift of cases from the Northeast to the South and West – but not entirely.
‘This analysis found that ethnic disparities among decedents in the West and South increased during May–August, 2020, suggesting that the geographic shift alone does not entirely account for the increase in percentage of Hispanic decedents nationwide,’ the CDC report authors wrote.
‘Disparities in COVID-19 incidence and deaths among Hispanic persons and other underrepresented racial and ethnic groups are well documented…Inequities in the social determinants of health can lead to increased risk for SARS-CoV-2 exposure among some racial and ethnic groups.
‘For example, persons from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups might be more likely to live in multigenerational and multifamily households, reside in congregate living environments, hold jobs requiring in-person work (e.g., meatpacking, agriculture, service, and health care).’
These groups also have poorer access to health care and are commonly discriminated against.
And the lack of care received by Hispanic and black people in the US is also partially responsible for higher rates of conditions like heart disease and diabetes that, in turn, drive up their COVID-19 risks.