Essay by Aaron Reilly
The very first case of Covid 19 in the United States was reported on January 20, 2020 in the state of Washington. Ever since then, I have been fascinated by the differences experienced by different groups of people in relation to how they are impacted by the virus. According to the CDC, American Indians or Alaska Natives, Asians, Blacks or African Americans, and Hispanics are being hospitalized and dying at rates ranging from 1.1 to 4.0 times higher than Whites. The same is true for case numbers as well except Asians have 40% less cases than Whites. The CDC notes this stark contrast with this statement, “Race and ethnicity are risk markers for other underlying conditions that affect health, including socioeconomic status, access to health care, and exposure to the virus related to occupation, eg., among frontline, essential, and critical infrastructure workers.”
Because there is no evidence to suggest that minorities have any biological factors that make them more likely to be affected by Covid 19, we should look to the areas pointed out by the CDC if we want to understand this disparity. In regards to virus related occupations, 25% of employed Hispanic and Black or African Americans work in the service industry. Only 16% of Whites work in the service industry. Differences in access to health care show that around 6% of Whites are uninsured while the rate is 18% for Hispanics and 10% for Black or African Americans. Along with these statistics, there are other less measurable components that contribute to the Covid 19 disparity. It is well known that the socioeconomic status of minorities is far lower than that of Whites. Products of a lower socioeconomic status include increased dependence on public transportation, living in multigenerational homes or city/urban areas, and possessing jobs that make working from home impossible. All of these products of socioeconomic status lead to higher Covid 19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
This map from John Hopkins shows the number of confirmed cases by county. The disparity is represented very clearly. City and urban areas are clearly hit the hardest. Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia are all located in the heart of the most red counties. As stated earlier, minorities more heavily populate these city/urban areas and are being hit much harder than non-minorities in the same areas.
When comparing the death rates by race in Los Angeles, the county with the highest number of deaths in the United States, we see the disparity very clearly. Black or African Americas are dying at nearly twice the rate of Whites and Hispanic or Latino people are dying at almost 3 times that of Whites despite being in the same county.
After learning all this, I wanted to get a better and more realistic idea of what these numbers meant. I took a look at my own county’s populations statistics and tried to get an idea of what’s going on around me. I live in Floyd County which is a relatively small county in southern Indiana. I am also fortunate enough to be able to social distance by working from home and attending school classes from home. I am fully aware there are others less fortunate than me in my area but like I said, I wanted to get a better idea.
While I was able to find these helpful population statistics, I had trouble getting more Covid-19 specific ones. However, from this chart we are able to tell that Floyd County has a total population of 76,809. Of the total population, 69,224 are White and 4,122 are Black or African American. The ratio is 1 Black or African American to almost 17 Whites. If there were no socioeconomic differences, equal access to healthcare, and equal occupation Covid-19 risks then there would be 1 Black or African American Covid-19 related hospitalization for every 17 White hospitalizations. However, given that such disparities exist, in Floyd county the rate of hospitalizations for Black or African Americans is 4 times that of Whites.
The reality that minority groups suffer from Covid 19 in much larger numbers is very sad. I am grateful for my class as it was what drove me to learn more about this topic and issue. I have always heard the news and the research from others but it very enlightening to study and research for oneself without having someone else’s opinions intertwined with the facts. I would strongly encourage others to do the same.
“COVID-19 Hospitalization and Death by Race/Ethnicity.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020, http://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/investigations-discovery/hospitalization-death-by-race-ethnicity.html.
“COVID-19 Map.” Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, 2020, coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html.
LA County Daily COVID-19 Data – LA County Department of Public Health, publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/coronavirus/data/index.htm.
“Why Is COVID-19 More Severely Affecting People of Color?” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 13 Aug. 2020, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/expert-answers/coronavirus-infection-by-race/faq-20488802.