Research published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society has found that Black individuals are twice as likely, as White individuals, to test positive for COVID-19
“Association of Black Race with Outcomes in COVID-19 Disease: A Retrospective Cohort Study” provides further evidence that race is indeed a factor in the extent to which some populations are affected by COVID-19.
Of the 4413 individuals tested, 17.8% tested positive and of those who tested positive, 78.9% were Black while 9.6% were White. The average age of all participants in the study was 46, however, those infected were on average 52 years old, compared to those who tested negative, who were 45 years old on average.
Study author Ayodeji Adegunsoye, MD, MS, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, said: “I think this really amplifies how pre-existing socioeconomic and health care disparities affect outcomes in the population. We already know that the common comorbidities that have been associated with COVID such as hypertension and diabetes disproportionately affect the Black community. So, it wasn’t too surprising that COVID-19 seemed to more commonly affect Black individuals as well.”
Dr. Adegunsoye also noted that Black individuals are overly represented in the service industry and therefore the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is greater: “Even during precautionary lockdowns to reduce spread, these jobs were often deemed essential services, and included jobs such as bus drivers, janitors, city sanitation workers, hospital food production personnel, security guards, etc. so it wasn’t too surprising that Black people were disproportionately infected and subsequently hospitalised with the virus.”
He added: “We have observed that for various reasons, older individuals are more likely to develop severe symptoms when they get infected and therefore they are more likely to get tested for COVID-19. It’s a vicious cycle of sorts, as older people are more likely to have hypertension and other comorbid diseases, which further increase the risk for hospitalisation with COVID. Even after accounting for their older age, Black patients were still at significantly increased risk of COVID-19 infection and hospitalisation.”
In addressing the disparity in COVID-19 infection rates, Dr Adegunsoye proposes making COVID-19 screening free and widely accessible. He hopes that there will be an increase in policy decisions that result in increased funding for community-led prevention efforts as well as “improved public enlightenment campaigns targeted at minorities to reduce the risk of developing hypertension and diabetes.”