Racial and Class Disparities in Coronavirus Hospitalizations and Deaths
Research + Findings
Dr. John Balmes, professor of medicine at University of California San Francisco and professor of environmental health sciences at UC Berkeley told CNN that the counties with the highest levels of air pollution (in the study discussed above) also had “more poor people, and more poor people of color.” (Balmes was not involved in the study.)
According to an NPR report, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of coronavirus hospitalizations in 14 states in the month of March found the following racial and ethnic disparities:
- Whites: 76% of the population, 45% of coronavirus hospitalizations
- Hispanics: 18% of the population, 8% of coronavirus hospitalizations
- African Americans: 13% of the population, 33% of coronavirus hospitalizations
The racial disparity is clear in the data: Though whites are 76% of the population, they make up less than half of the studied coronavirus hospitalizations; African Americans are only 13% of the population, yet they represent one-third of coronavirus hospitalizations.
At a White House coronavirus task force briefing on Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said that African Americans do not appear to have higher rates of coronavirus infection. However, he said, health disparities in terms of higher rates of chronic illness may make African Americans more likely to be hospitalized or die from coronavirus.
Of the approximately 1,500 hospitalized coronavirus patients studied, about 90% had a chronic underlying condition: high blood pressure (50%), obesity (48%), chronic lung disease (35%), and diabetes (28%).
Along the same lines, a Washington Post analysis found that counties with black majorities have three times the number of coronavirus infections and almost six times the deaths of white majority counties. Potential factors also include underlying health conditions and the quality of care and resources available.
Illinois Man with Coronavirus Symptoms Facing Criminal Charges for Failure to Self-Isolate
According to a ProPublica Illinois report, 36-year-old Jason Liddle of Olney, Illinois is facing a criminal charge of reckless conduct for failure to follow medical orders to self-isolate due to his coronavirus symptoms.
Liddle, who had symptoms but hadn’t actually been tested for COVID-19, was recognized by a high school friend employed at a convenience store that Liddle had entered with his young son who needed to use the bathroom. The friend recalled a Facebook post by Liddle describing his self-isolation order and alerted his supervisor, who called authorities after Liddle left the store. He still hadn't been tested when he was notified of the misdemeanor charge and summons on March 30.
While ProPublica reported singular incidents of legal enforcement of statewide stay-at-home orders in four states – New Jersey, North Carolina, Indiana, and California – Liddle’s case may be the first and only case of legal enforcement of doctor’s orders to an individual to self-isolate.
More than 40 states including Illinois have issued stay-at-home orders due to coronavirus concerns.
Hydroxychloroquine and Chloroquine Prescribing Information Removed by CDC
On Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its online guidance for prescribing hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat coronavirus patients, including removing dosing instructions for health care providers, as reported by CNN.
The two antimalarial drugs have been touted by President Donald Trump as potential coronavirus treatments, despite scanty scientific evidence to support such claims. The drugs are currently being studied for their effectiveness against COVID-19 but have not yet been approved for that purpose by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
On April 4, however, the agency issued an emergency use authorization allowing the two drugs from the national stockpile to be administered to hospitalized coronavirus patients.
Questions swirl about the safety and efficacy of the drugs, which some say are best administered in the early stages of coronavirus infection, not to critically-ill hospitalized patients. And some experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, have warned that the drug is unproven and there may be dangers in promoting it before data backs up its efficacy.