Black and brown Americans are more likely to contract the novel coronavirus and to die from it. New research published by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to healthcare reporting, showed that Black and Hispanic Americans are dying from COVID-19 at over twice the rate of White Americans. Disparities in occupations, testing, hospitalization and treatment outcomes all contribute to this grim statistic.

The team of researchers used electronic health records for over 300,000 people to study the racial and ethnic breakdown for deaths, hospitalizations, infections and testing for COVID-19.

People of Color Less Likely to Work From Home

Even though people of color disproportionately work in high-risk jobs, they do not have markedly higher test rates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, using statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, explained that “people from some racial and ethnic minority groups are disproportionately represented in essential work settings such as healthcare facilities, farms, factories, grocery stores, and public transportation.” The study’s authors argue that “[D]espite being at increased risk of exposure to the virus, people of color did not have markedly higher testing rates compared to White patients.”

People who must be physically present at work don’t have the options others have. This, in turn, increases their risk of COVID-19 exposure. About a fifth of Black workers could work from home, according to the 2017/18 data, and a little under a sixth of Hispanic or Latin workers could work from home. Compared that to close to a third of White workers who could work from home.

Because of this greater exposure, people of color should be tested at significantly higher rates than those who are white. People with a greater likelihood of exposure need more testing to catch all the possible cases.

Once Infected, People of Color Do Worse than White Counterparts

Once infected with COVID-19, Black and Hispanic patients were over twice as likely to be hospitalized than average, and close to 4 times as likely as white patients. They were twice as likely to die.

When the researchers compared people, taking into account age, health, and socioeconomic status, they found:

  • Black Americans were 33% more likely to be hospitalized and close to 20% more likely to die
  • Hispanic Americans were 53% more likely to be hospitalized and 30% more likely to die
  • Asian Americans were 57% more likely to be hospitalized and 49% more likely to die

“These findings show that people of color are bearing a disproportionate burden of negative health outcomes related to the COVID-19 pandemic at every stage – rates of infection, access to testing, and severity of illness and death,” the authors wrote.

They call for “efforts to address disparities” that are “within and beyond the healthcare system.”