The Increased Effect of COVID-19 on Minorities
By: Akshita Madireddy
The coronavirus (COVID-19) is known to be easily transmittable from human contact, breathing, respiratory droplets all within 6 feet of another person. The virus that has been understood as a pandemic from March 11 has claimed the lives of over 440,000 people as of June 17th and there have been over 8 million confirmed cases worldwide. To understand varying trends and statistics, several studies both in the United States and Britain have analyzed current mortality rates in regard to ethnicity and the increased detriment of COVID-19 on minorities. These studies from the United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics(ONS), Yale, the CDC, and Public Health England verified the disparities between POC and those who are white in morbidity and the number of cases.
In the United Kingdom, studies from the ONS confirm that black males and females are about 4.2 times more likely to die from the coronavirus than their white counterparts. In the United States, the death rate for Black people is 3.6 times more likely than those who are white and the Hispanic community is 2.5 times more likely to contract the disease. Public Health England attributes these differences to socio-economic disadvantages and acknowledges the disproportionate effect COVID-19 has on people from BAME(Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) backgrounds. The CDC, while analyzing varying age categories, received new data on the age group 45-54 in the United States. In the U.S, whites compromise 62% of people in this age category, however, they only make up 22% of the mortality in those ages. The remaining 78% is attributed to the African American and Hispanic communities. The socio-economic differences that are the foundation for these disparities include income inequality, occupational factors, and housing differences.
Globally, people from ethnic backgrounds often have less access to economic resources, leaving them to experience economic vulnerability. In 2018, Black US households were two times as likely to be food insecure. Economic concerns and financial implications are often the cause of the lack of health insurance. In the United States, Hispanics are 3 times as likely and African Americans are 2 times as likely to be uninsured. These serve as underlying barriers for proper access to health care and correct treatment during COVID-19.
During COVID-19, although advised to remain in lockdown, workers in essential industries continue to work outside, leaving them susceptible to contracting and spreading the virus. In the service industry sector during the pandemic, most are comprised of Hispanic and African American workers. The essential industries include transportation, shopping centers, and agricultural workers. Another contributing factor to occupational hazards during COVID-19 is that people of color are less likely to receive paid sick leave. Workers without this luxury are more likely to continue working despite the detriments, increasing human contact and the likelihood of the virus spreading.
Another factor contributing to the increased rate of COVID-19 in minorities is overcrowding. In a British survey, 26% of Bangladeshi and 21% of African households claimed to have more people than bedrooms compared to 2% of white British households. Given how infectious this virus is, it is understandable how housing without proper space can translate to poorer outcomes. Furthermore, precarious housing including those who are homeless is at greater risk for contracting the Coronavirus. In the United Kingdom, non-whites make up only 14% of the overall population but at least 31% of homeless shelter occupants are non-whites. These statistics can provide a basis for the disparities as those with not ideal housing accommodations are less able to practice social distancing.
Ultimately, the differences in the rate of impact and mortality cannot be denied. Globally, there has been a proven difference in these rates in regards to minorities compared to whites. To continue searching for detailed reasoning, the United States federal government is continuing to collect data and monitor disparities among ethnic groups to improve the allocation of resources and plan preventative methods. These studies can allow for further accommodation towards healthcare access for minorities facing difficulties during COVID-19.
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