During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans of color were far more likely to be hospitalized or die of the disease than white Americans, a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds.
Researchers analyzed hospitalization data from 99 U.S. counties, including more than 140,000 patients who caught Covid between March 2020 and February 2021.
Non-white Americans were up to four times more likely to be hospitalized with Covid and up to seven times more likely to die of the disease.
Native Americans faced the highest risk with 233 Covid deaths for every 100,000 people – 7.2 times higher than the death rate for white Americans, who had 32 deaths for every 100,000 people.
This higher risk may be tied to people of color working essential jobs, living in low-income urban areas, and relying on public transportation – along with other factors, the researchers said.
‘Equitable access to Covid preventive measures, including vaccination, is needed to minimize the gap in racial and ethnic disparities of severe Covid,’ the researchers wrote.
Minorities face dramatically higher risk of being hospitalized or dying of Covid in the first year of the pandemic, a CDC study finds. Pictured: A member of Louisville Metro EMS tends to a patient experiencing a Covid emergency in Louisville, Kentucky, September 2021
Throughout the first year of the pandemic, non-white Americans faced higher Covid hospitalization rates – up to eight times higher – than white Americans
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Covid has disproportionately impacted black, Latino, and other non-white Americans.
In the U.S., people of color are more likely to work essential jobs that put them at increased risk of encountering the coronavirus.
They’re also more likely to be low-income, live in urban communities and rely on public transportation – all additional drivers of increased Covid risk.
Numerous studies have shown higher Covid case rates, hospitalization rates and death rates in non-white Americans.
For example, the COVID Racial Data Tracker at the COVID Tracking Project found that black, Native American, Hispanic,and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Americans all had significantly higher Covid death rates than white Americans during the first year of the pandemic.
A new study from the CDC provides additional evidence about the elevated risk that non-white Americans face for severe Covid disease.
This new analysis was published on Thursday in JAMA Network Open.
The CDC researchers used data from COVID-NET, a CDC surveillance system including hospitals in 99 U.S. counties – representing about 10 percent of the national population.
The system spans 14 states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee and Utah.
In this analysis, the CDC researchers included about 143,000 patients.
All of the patients were hospitalized with a lab-confirmed Covid case between March 1, 2020 and February 28, 2021.
The analysis showed that non-white Americans had a much higher chance of severe Covid than white Americans – with hospitalization up to four times more likely.
Native Americans had the highest hospitalization rate, at about 1,063 Covid hospitalizations for every 100,000 people.
That’s 3.7 times higher than the hospitalization rate for white Americans, which was 288 hospitalizations for every 100,000 people.
Native Americans also had the highest death rate at 233 deaths for every 100,000 people, which is 7.2 times higher than the 32 deaths per 100,000 people rate for white Americans.
While older Americans of every race and ethnicity had higher Covid risk, non-white Americans remained at an elevated risk in every age group compared to white Americans
Latino Americans had the second-highest hospitalization rate, at 879 hospitalizations for every 100,000 people – 3.1 times higher than for white Americans.
The CDC researchers also noted that Latino Americans had the highest Covid hospitalization rate for children under age 18 at 57 hospitalizations for every 100,000 children.
That’s almost four times higher than the Covid hospitalization rate for white children, which was 15 hospitalizations for every 100,000 children.
Hospitalization rates increased with age across all race and ethnicity groups, the researchers found – but people of color continued to have higher hospitalization rates than white people.
Among seniors and adults between ages 18 and 64, Native Americans had the highest Covid hospitalization rates.
‘During every month, the highest age-adjusted hospitalization rates occurred among American Indian or Alaska Native, Latino, and Black persons,’ the researchers wrote.
This was true throughout the three Covid surges that occurred in 2020: spring, summer and winter.
Non-white Covid patients were also more likely to require intensive care or die in the hospital
The researchers also found that Native American, Latino and black Covid patients were most likely to require intensive care or die in the hospital.
‘American Indian or Alaska Native, Latino, Black, and Asian or Pacific Islander persons were significantly more likely to be hospitalized, receive ICU care, or die with COVID-19–associated illness compared with White persons,’ the researchers wrote.
‘These disparities were present across all age groups and persisted during the entire 12-month surveillance period.’
This study follows past analyses showing Covid’s disproportionate impact on people of color in the U.S., including research that has demonstrated particularly high risk for Native Americans.
The researchers also noted that Asians and Pacific Islanders have ‘modestly higher rates of hospitalization, ICU admission, and in-hospital death compared with white persons.’
But combining Asians and Pacific Islanders into one category may be an issue in data analysis, the researchers said, as some studies have suggested that Pacific Islanders are higher-risk than other Asian groups.
The researchers listed work in essential jobs, poverty, unstable housing, lack of transportation, and multigenerational housing as reasons why non-white Americans face increased Covid risk.
‘Importantly, members of racial and ethnic minority groups face inequity due to structural racism,’ the researchers wrote, ‘with its many downstream consequences on overall health, including poor access to health care and economic instability.’
In order to address this issue, the researchers said, racial and ethnic minority groups should be a priority for Covid vaccination and other preventative measures.