Updated: Oct 18, 2021
Research conducted at the Mayo Clinic has concluded that racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 in the United States.
According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the COVID-19 hospitalization rate is about 5.3 times higher for non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native people than that of non-Hispanic white people. COVID-19 hospitalization rates among non-Hispanic Black people and Hispanic or Latino people were about 4.7 times the rate of non-Hispanic white people.
The death rates among Black people between 55-64 years old are higher than for white people aged 65-74, and death rates are higher for Blacks aged 65-74 than for whites aged 75-84, and so on. In every age category, Black people are dying from COVID-19 at roughly the same rate as white people more than a decade older, according to Brookings Institution.
Although there is no evidence that people of color have genetic or other biological factors that make them more likely to be affected by COVID-19, there are several reasons why the coronavirus has disproportionately affected minorities.
Countless people of color have jobs that are considered essential or cannot be done remotely and involve interaction with the public. According to the CDC, nearly 25% of employed Hispanic and Black Americans work in the service industry in the U.S. compared to 16% of non-Hispanic white workers. Black Americans also account for 30% of licensed practical and licensed nurses. Numerous people of color also depend on public transportation to get to work, which may factor into how often they contact other people.
Furthermore, racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to encounter barriers to receiving care, such as a lack of health insurance or unpaid sick leave. In 2017, according to the CDC, only about 6% of non-Hispanic white people were uninsured, while the rate was nearly 18% for Hispanics and 10% for non-Hispanic Black people.
Inequities in access to high-quality education for some racial and ethnic minority groups can also lead to lower high school completion rates and college acceptance barriers. This may limit future career options and lead to lower-paying or less stable jobs. People with limited job options likely have less flexibility to leave their jobs that may put them at a higher risk of exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19. Various individuals often cannot afford to miss work in these situations, even if they’re sick, because they do not have enough money saved up for essential items like food and other critical living needs.
Additionally, several people from racial and ethnic minority groups live in crowded conditions that make it more challenging to follow social distancing strategies. In some cultures, it is common for family members of many generations to live in one household, which means that if one person contracts the virus, young children, middle-aged adults, and elders living in the same house would all be exposed. Moreover, growing and disproportionate unemployment rates for some racial and ethnic minority groups during the COVID-19 pandemic may lead to a greater risk of eviction and homelessness or housing sharing.
Through Teen Lenses: Do you believe that some people are predisposed to contracting COVID-19? How do you think that is affecting people across the nation?
“Yes, I believe that people with pre-existing health conditions are more at risk of contracting COVID-19. This means that they will have to pay even more money than they already do.” Sophie King, 15, Sophomore at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, McLean, VA
“I think that some people are more susceptible to contracting COVID due to external circumstances and things that are not in their control. The disease itself does not actively target anyone, but certain groups of people are more likely to be affected. In my opinion, there are two groups of people, essential workers and those who blatantly disregard guidelines and continue living their lives as normal. Essential workers like medical professionals are exposed to people all day and, even with personal protective equipment, could be exposed to COVID. People who don’t wear masks and don’t social distance not only put themselves at risk but also others around them.” Kritika Kumar, 15, Sophomore at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Fairfax, VA
“I don’t think certain people are more or less likely to get it; I think it has more to do with how well they are protecting themselves. I think as a nation, we’ve done a much better job of using masks and social distancing lately, but you still see people on social media having parties and meeting up with other people unprotected, which is where people are actually more likely to get COVID-19.” Prithvi Seri, 15, Sophomore at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Fairfax, VA
“I think that some people are more likely to get Covid-19, based statically on what activities they engage in and what precautions they take (masks, sanitary, etc.). After all, with the increased number of people, one is around, there is an increased chance of infection. I do think that it affects people’s perceptions of each other, especially when it comes to who you come in contact with and interact with; people are being more careful and aware of their social circles and the amount of risk they’re taking.” Jessica Ye, 15, Sophomore at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, McLean, VA