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Minorities Hit Hard by COVID-19, More Children Getting Sick

Racial disparities are showing as minorities are disproportionately becoming infected with COVID-19, and despite information to the contrary, children are becoming infected and are capable of infecting adults.

woman wearing face mask against covid
The rates of COVID-19 infection are disproportionately affecting minorities, which underscores the need to address inequities in health care, according to the Infectious Diseases Society of America. And despite claims to the contrary, the disease is infecting children, some of whom are becoming seriously ill.

According to researchers from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, Black, Latino, American Indian and Alaskan Native people were hospitalized for COVID-19 in disproportionate numbers to white people in 12 states that were analyzed in a two-month period from April to June.

During that period there were 48,788 cumulative COVID-19 hospitalizations in Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia and Washington. The study found that the hospitalization rate for white people was substantially smaller than for minorities.

For instance, Black people accounted for 31.8 percent of hospitalizations in Ohio, where they account for just 13 percent of the population.

“We know based on data that the disproportionately affected communities are Black and brown communities — basically Hispanic and African American and to some extent Asians — and these disparities have existed for a long time,” said Dr. Tina Tan, a fellow at the Infectious Disease Society of America.

“These individuals tend to be more economically disadvantaged, they live in more crowded housing conditions, they tend to be in areas where they rely on public transportation to get to work, so they tend to be essential workers,” Tan said.

They also live in places considered to be “food deserts,” where it’s hard to get to a grocery store or to a pharmacy, and they tend to have a higher incidence of underlying conditions, such as obesity, high blood pressure, heart problems and asthma, all of which exacerbate the intensity of COVID-19 infections.

They also live in crowded conditions, and if one family member is infected with the disease it is difficult or impossible for other family members to socially distance and protect themselves from the virus.

And they don’t have access to the same levels of health care as others, including testing for COVID-19. “So if these individuals are unable to get tested, even though they are sick and exposing other people in the community, then you have a surge of cases occurring,” Tan said.

And because these individuals often live in communities where health-care facilities are limited, they can overwhelm those facilities, which then have to transfer patients to neighboring facilities, overwhelming other communities.

“If we don’t put in place measures that address some of these disparities up front," Tan said, "this is going to continue to occur and we know that the disease is surging in rural communities where there’s not enough testing."

Tan said there has also been much false information about children and their resistance to COVID-19. In fact, children are becoming infected and seriously ill and they are infecting adults.

“A misconception that is surging is that children don’t get sick from COVID, or that if they do get sick it’s just like a cold and will go away and they won’t get seriously ill,” Tan said. “We’re starting to see an increase in the number of children that are more severely affected by COVID, especially with the Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children. And there are more kids who are dying from COVID. There is a subset of kids that gets very sick from COVID and the bad thing right now is we don’t have the ability to predict who is going to get sick from it.”

Tan said what’s needed until a vaccine and treatments are developed is a universal masking mandate and an emphasis on social distancing.