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COVID-19 hospitalizations analysis shows disparities across racial and ethnic groups

Blacks and Hispanics were the two groups most negatively affected, showing wide gaps between population and hospitalization percentages.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Adding to mounting evidence of COVID-19's disproportionate impact on some U.S. communities, a new analysis of hospitalization rates from the University of Minnesota shows Black, Hispanic, Native American and Alaskan Native populations in the U.S. are significantly more likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 than whites.

Published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers from the U of M's Carlson School of Management found significant disparities among racial and ethnic groups after reviewing nearly 49,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations over a two-month period in the 12 U.S. states that report such data for hospital patients.

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When compared to the populations of each state, people identified as being African American or Black were hospitalized at higher rates than those who were white in all 12 states reporting data, with Ohio (32% hospitalizations and 13% population), Minnesota (24.9% hospitalizations and 6.8% population), and Indiana (28.1% hospitalizations and 9.8% population) having the largest disparities.

Hispanics were hospitalized at higher rates than those who were white in 10 of the 11 states reporting this data, with Virginia (36.2% hospitalizations and 9.6% population), Utah (35.3% hospitalizations and 14.2% population), and Rhode Island (33% hospitalizations and 15.9% population) showing the biggest disparities.

Native American and/or Alaskan Natives were hospitalized at higher rates than whites in the eight states reporting data, including in Arizona, where this population accounted for 15.7% of the hospitalizations, but only 4% of the state's population.

The disparities found in other population groups are largely reversed among Asian communities. In six of the 10 states that reported data for this group, the proportion of hospitalizations was lower relative to their population representation. In Massachusetts, for example, individuals who identify as Asian comprise 7% of the population but only 4% of the COVID-19 hospitalizations.

While consistent with previous analyses from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others, the study does not adjust for age, sex, comorbidities and socioeconomic factors within each race and ethnic group that are likely related to COVID-19 hospitalizations. The 12 states included in the analysis were: Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia and Washington.

THE LARGER TREND

Racial disparities in healthcare are becoming an issue in the 2020 presidential election. This past week, Sen. Kamala Harris, the first Black woman nominated by a major party for the vice presidency, said during the National Democratic Convention that the disproportionate number of COVID-19 deaths among minorities is the effect of structural racism, with inequities from education and technology to job security and transportation.

In July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put many people from racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19. 

The CDC defined racial and ethnic minority groups as including people of color with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences who may have similar social determinants of health that have historically prevented them from having fair opportunities for economic, physical and emotional health.
 

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com