After filing a Freedom of Information Act request for COVID-19-related data from the Centers for Disease Control, the New York Times received files on 1.5 million cases, which gave it the basis for a shocking analysis on the disparate rates of infection among US racial groups.
The Times‘ conclusion: “Latino and African-American residents of the United States have been three times as likely to become infected as their white neighbors, according to the new data, which provides detailed characteristics of 640,000 infections detected in nearly 1,000 U.S. counties. And Black and Latino people have been nearly twice as likely to die from the virus as white people, the data shows.”
The piece, “The Fullest Look Yet at the Racial Inequity of Coronavirus,” includes a clickable map that shows infection rates for individual counties. For example, in Hennepin County, the infection rate is 27 per thousand for whites, and 23 per thousand for Asians. But for Blacks the rate is 146 per thousand; for Hispanics it’s 135 per thousand, and for Natives it’s 73 per thousand.
The Times continues: “The higher rate in deaths from the virus among Black and Latino people has been explained, in part, by a higher prevalence of underlying health problems, including diabetes and obesity. But the new C.D.C. data reveals a significant imbalance in the number of virus cases, not just deaths — a fact that scientists say underscores inequities unrelated to other health issues.
“‘The focus on comorbidities makes me angry, because this really is about who still has to leave their home to work, who has to leave a crowded apartment, get on crowded transport, and go to a crowded workplace, and we just haven’t acknowledged that those of us who have the privilege of continuing to work from our homes aren’t facing those risks,’ said Dr. Mary Bassett, the Director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University.
“Dr. Bassett, a former New York City health commissioner, said there is no question that underlying health problems — often caused by factors that people cannot control, such as lack of access to healthy food options and health care — play a major role in Covid-19 deaths.
“But she also said a big determinant of who dies is who gets sick in the first place, and that infections have been far more prevalent among people who can’t work from home. ‘Many of us also have problems with obesity and diabetes, but we’re not getting exposed, so we’re not getting sick,’ she said.”