Researchers have long known that Black, Latinx and Indigenous populations were more likely to die from COVID-19 than white populations, but a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine by researchers with the National Cancer Institute has finally brought some quantifiable numbers to that disturbing fact.
Based on data from the study, Antonio Planas of NBC News reported that “an estimated 477,200 more people died because of COVID-19 and other reasons from March to December 2020 compared to the same time in 2019.” The study also revealed that “COVID-19 killed a disproportionate number of the country’s Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans last year and exacerbated health disparities among the groups.”
“Overall deaths of male and female Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans were two to three times higher than those of white and Asian males and females during the assessed period when population per 100,000 people was accounted for,” Planas reported.
When researchers looked at the cause of the 477,200 “excess deaths” that occurred during their study period, they found that 351,400 men and women (about 74%) had died from the COVID-19 virus.
“Deaths among Blacks and Native Americans were three to four times higher, and Latino deaths were nearly two times higher, compared to white populations,” Planas said.
In an interview with NBC News, Meredith Shiels, an investigator with the National Cancer Institute who led the study, said the disproportionate increase in deaths among Black, Latinx and Native American communities from COVID-19 showed further proof of the “longstanding structural inequities” in healthcare between different racial groups.
“These findings warn us that there is likely to be a severe widening of racial/ethnic disparities in all-cause mortality as longer-term data are released,” she told Planas. “Although vaccination rates accelerated rapidly during the spring of 2021, racial/ethnic inequities continue and will further drive mortality disparities if not addressed with urgency and cultural competence, as has been done by tribal communities.”
Shiels and her team of researchers continued to explain that “racial/ethnic disparities in COVID-19 risk, hospitalization and death have been attributed to structural and social determinants of health with established and deep roots in racism.”
They also referred to specific cultural and social barriers that exacerbate those disparities.
“Black and Latino persons are more likely to have occupational exposures to COVID-19 than white persons,” the researchers wrote. “They also are more likely to live in multigenerational households and more densely populated neighborhoods and have less access to health care and private transportation.”
Finally, they added that “American Indian/Alaska Native reservation-based communities are at further risk for infection due to a lack of infrastructure and chronically underfunded health care facilities. Equitable vaccine distribution is needed to prevent further exacerbation of racial/ethnic disparities in COVID-19 risk and mortality.”
As of Oct. 1, 2021, The New York Times reported that the number of Americans who died from COVID-19 had surpassed 700,000. Still, despite the obvious health risks, an estimated 68 million Americans currently remain unvaccinated against the virus.