COVID-19 death rates higher for Black, Hispanic working-age adults

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A medical professional wearing a protective face mask pushes a patient on a stretcher through the emergency room entrance at Elmhurst Hospital Center in March 2020 in New York City. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Black and Hispanic adults in the United States died from COVID-19 at rates nearly eight times as high as those seen by White adults during the pandemic, according to a study published Tuesday.

However, during the wave of infections caused by the Delta variant of the virus that causes COVID-19, between July 1 and Oct. 31 of last year, these gaps began to narrow, particularly among adults age 60 and older, the data published Tuesday by JAMA Network Open showed.

For example, during the first three months of the pandemic, there were 15 COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people in the general population among Black men ages 25 to 29 and eight deaths per 100,000 people in the general population among Black women in this age group, the researchers said.

Over the same period, the virus death rate among Hispanic men ages 25 to 29 was 16 per 100,000 people in the general population, while it was about six per 100,000 people among women.

Meanwhile, White men and women died at a rate of less than two per 100,000 people in the general population during the first three months of the pandemic, or more than 80% lower, according to the researchers.

By the fall of last year, though, when the more transmissible Delta variant — which also caused more serious illness — was the predominant one in circulation nationally, virus death rates among Black and Hispanic adults for most age groups were 25% higher than those of Whites.

And, for adults age 80 and older, White males died at rates up to 10% higher than their Black and Hispanic peers, the researchers said.

“COVID [death] rates were higher in working ages for Blacks and Hispanics than for Whites throughout the pandemic,” study co-author Irma T. Elo told UPI in an email.

This may be due to there being more “essential workers [who] could not work from home” within these communities” as well as “more crowded housing [and] less access to healthcare,” said Elo, a professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Women of all racial and ethnic groups died at far lower rates compared with men throughout the pandemic’s first two years, the data showed.

Previous studies have found that people of color in the United States are at increased risk for getting infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and dying from it.

However, this study also indicates that death rates rose across all racial and ethnic groups among adults ages 25 to 59, or those of working age, as the Delta variant became more prominent.

Among Black and Hispanic adults of working age, in whom death rates were already elevated, they more than doubled, according to researchers involved with the new study.

For White adults, the rates increased up to 10-fold, the data showed.

“The age pattern of COVID mortality changed in a striking fashion, with rates significantly dropping for those 80 and older and profoundly increasing for those 25 to 54,” Elo said.

“The latest findings point to one important public-health solution: Get the younger people vaccinated,” she said.

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