Exposure to COVID-19 explains racial disparities in mortality rates: study


By Xu Jing
  • World
  • Friday, 11 Dec 2020

CHICAGO, Dec. 10 (Xinhua) -- Large variations in exposure at home, in the community and at work rather than case-fatality rates may explain the well-documented racial disparities in COVID-19 mortality during the first wave of the pandemic last spring, according to a University of Michigan (UM) study.

Using the Michigan Disease Surveillance System from March to July 2020, the researchers analyzed data from 49,701 people with a confirmed or probable COVID-19 infection, with known age, race or ethnicity, state of residence, sex at birth and state prisoner status.

The analysis shows that COVID-19 incidence and mortality rates among all nonwhite groups were substantially higher than whites, except for Native Americans. The incidence rate was 5.5 times higher for African Americans and three times higher for Latinos, while the death rate was nearly seven times higher for African Americans and twice as high for Latinos, compared to whites.

The average age of reported COVID-19 cases varied by race/ethnicity: 53 for whites, 51 for African Americans and 38 for Latinos. The average age of death from COVID-19 was 79 for whites, 71 for African Americans and 66 for Latinos.

"Our results suggest that the stark differences in crude and adjusted mortality between Black people and all other race/ethnic groups are driven in large part, but not exclusively, by disparities in infection risk at all ages, particularly an extremely high rate of COVID-19 infection among older Black individuals," said lead author Jon Zelner, an assistant professor of epidemiology.

While case-fatalities for older Black people were similar to same-aged whites, reported infection rates were 6-8 times greater than their white counterparts.

"Some of this disparity is also driven by the higher case fatality rate among middle-aged Black people, as compared to same-aged whites, in combination with the 5-6 times greater risk of infection among middle-aged Blacks as compared to whites," Zelner said.

The study, posted on UM's website on Wednesday, has been published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

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