American minorities have been hit particularly hard by COVID-19 – and the proportion of Hispanic people dying from the disease in the US is only growing, a new report from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests.
In May, Hispanic Americans were responsible for 16.3 percent of coronavirus deaths in the US. By August, that number had risen to 26.4 percent.
More than half of the pandemic deaths in the US were white people, but the proportion of black and Hispanic people who have died from COVID-19 is greater than their proportion in the population.
In part, the increase in deaths among Hispanic people this summer may be due to the shift in outbreaks from the Northeast to the South and West – regions with a larger Hispanic population.
But the CDC’s report suggests there’s more to the racial divide in COVID-19 fatalities than that. Black and Hispanic Americans are still at greater risk of exposure to the virus, are increasingly exposed, and are more likely to die from the infection as a result, government scientists suggest.
Hispanics and Latinx people made up 26.4% of the deaths from the coronavirus in August, despite making up only 18% of the US population. Their share of deaths has increased by 60% from May to August
More than 217,000 people died of the corona virus in the US on Friday. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, nearly eight million people are infected.
The progression of the pandemic has made it clear that the virus does not discriminate and infect people of all ages, races, ethnicities, and genders in the US and around the world.
However, it does not affect all of these groups equally.
The elderly and people with underlying conditions such as heart disease, obesity or diabetes are at a much higher risk of serious illness and death.
But also people of color, for reasons that are more social than biological.
According to the latest data released by the CDC on Friday, 114,411 people died from the coronavirus between May 1 and August 31. Nearly 49 percent were people of color.
The other 51.3 percent was white.
Although the majority of the people who died were white, the proportion of white deaths would be more than three-quarters if COVID-19 affected people of all races equally.
Instead, black people made up nearly 19 percent of those who died from the coronavirus, but only about 13 percent of the U.S. population.
Latinx and Hispanics make up about 18 percent of all Americans, but they accounted for more than 24 percent of COVID-19 deaths during those four months.
COVID-19 cases and deaths rose in the South (solid blue line) during the summer, partly responsible for the rise in Hispanic and Latinx deaths, CDC reports
Perhaps most troublingly, the proportion of Latinx deaths has increased over the summer, from 16.3 percent of fatalities in May to 26.4 percent in August, the CDC reports.
That coincided with the shift of coronavirus hotspots from the Northeast to the West and South of the US.
Deaths in the Northeastern United States fell sharply, accounting for 44.2 percent of all fatalities in May and just four percent in August.
With overwhelming outbreaks in New York City and the three-state territory under control, other parts of the country that did not need such aggressive mitigation measures in the spring began to see an increase in cases and deaths.
Just over 23 percent of coronavirus deaths in May occurred in the South. By August, the share of deaths in the region had nearly tripled to 62 percent.
And the percentage of deaths in the West rose from 10.6 percent to 21.4 percent.
“The observed geographic shifts in COVID-19-associated deaths may be related to the differential implementation of community mitigation efforts across the country, including previous reopening efforts in select jurisdictions,” the CDC authors wrote.
“To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the CDC continues to recommend the use of masks, frequent handwashing, and maintaining social distances, including avoiding large gatherings.”
About 38 percent of the US Hispanic population lives in the South, and that number is increasing. Hispanic people make up about 29 percent of the total population of the West, far in excess of the national share.
So the rise in deaths among Hispanics can be partly explained by the shift in cases from the Northeast to the South and West – but not entirely.
This analysis found that the ethnic differences between the deaths in the west and the south increased between May and August 2020, suggesting that the geographic shift alone is not the full explanation for the increase in the percentage of Hispanic deaths across the country, the CDC report authors wrote.
Differences in the incidence and deaths of COVID-19 among Hispanic individuals and other underrepresented racial and ethnic groups are well documented … Inequalities in the social determinants of health may lead to an increased risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 in some racial and ethnic groups.
For example, persons from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups may be more likely to live in multi-generational and multi-family households, live in a common living environment, have jobs requiring personal work (eg meat packaging, agriculture, services and health care). ‘
These groups also have less access to health care and are often discriminated against.
And the lack of care of Hispanic and Black people in the US is also partly responsible for higher rates of conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, which in turn increase their COVID-19 risks.