In the eight-month period between March 1 and November 7, 70,825 hospitalizations were reported to the CDC. While non-Hispanic whites and blacks account for the largest number of hospitalizations, racial and ethnic groups have been disproportionately affected.
The same is true for American Indians or Alaska Natives and non-Hispanic blacks, who are hospitalized 4.1, 3.9 times the rate for non-Hispanic white people, the CDC said.
Health officials have sounded the alarm for months about the trend – and public health experts say it will not change unless the complex factors that put these groups at a disadvantage are addressed.
Some communities of color, including Hispanics and African Americans, are often unbelievers or distrustful of the healthcare system. Cooper said they have higher rates of conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and obesity, which can lead to more severe reactions to the Covid-19 virus.
If they get sick, many fear their health will affect their ability to financially support their families in the short and long term.
“These are real situations that people have to deal with and affect the likelihood that people will feel they have no choice in terms of staying at home even if they have symptoms that may actually be symptoms of Covid-19,” said Chen, whose research focuses on social inequalities in health.
Knowing that blacks and Hispanics were more likely to have complications from Covid-19 influenced some of the decisions families make.
Irene Skinner, who lives in Jefferson County, Alabama, has five girls who attend virtual lessons to avoid exposure to the virus.
Van Phillips, the principal of a high school that a Skinner’s daughters attends, has reached out to families to explain how the Covid-19 virus disproportionately affects blacks and Latinos.
Now, the school has the highest percentage of students who learn from home, the WBRC reported, citing data provided by Jefferson County Schools.
“There are just some things we need to do to save our lives,” Phillips told WBRC.
For Chen, the CDC findings should be a wake-up call for health officials to consider the distribution of personal protective equipment, reasonable sick pay policies and the potential distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine.
“Demographics tell part of the story, but it should really guide us in thinking about how to target the populations that will benefit the most in terms of their protection,” Chen said.