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Blacks, Hispanics Account for More Than Half of COVID Deaths: Study

MONDAY, Nov. 23, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Black and Hispanic Americans accounted for more than half of all hospitalized COVID-19 patient deaths in the United States in the early stages of the pandemic, and the hospitals where they were treated may be a factor, researchers say.

For the study, the investigators analyzed data on nearly 7,900 COVID-19 patients admitted to 88 hospitals nationwide between Jan. 17 and July 22, 2020. Of those patients, just over 35% were white, 33% were Hispanic, 25.5% were Black, and about 6% were Asian.

White people make up 60% of the nation's population, Hispanic people 18.5%, Black people 13.4% and Asian people nearly 6%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The overall death rate among all of the patients was 18.4%. There weren't any racial or ethnic differences in mortality rates among people hospitalized with the disease, but Black and Hispanic people accounted for a disproportionate number of people who required hospitalization, and 53% of deaths, according to the study published online Nov. 17 in the journal Circulation.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has shown a spotlight on racial and ethnic disparities in health care that have been happening for years," said study author Dr. Fatima Rodriguez, an assistant professor of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford University in California.

"Our study shows an over-representation of Black and Hispanic patients in terms of morbidity and mortality that needs to be addressed upstream before hospitalization," added Rodriguez, an expert in health disparities in cardiovascular medicine.

The study also found that hospitals, not race/ethnicity, were associated with death rates.

"Interestingly, more of the variations in mortality were explained by the site of the care than by race or ethnicity," Rodriguez said in a university news release.

"We need to understand more about differences between hospitals. Is it different treatment protocols that are rapidly evolving during the pandemic? Or perhaps minority-serving hospitals have different resources? This is an active area of research within the registry used for this study as we enroll more sites across the country," she added.

The researchers also found that Black and Hispanic patients were significantly younger -- average age of 57 and 60, respectively -- than whites (69) or Asians (64).

Also, Black and Hispanic patients had more underlying health conditions. Black patients had the highest rates of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Black patients also had the highest rates of mechanical ventilation and renal replacement therapy, and the lowest rate (6%) of treatment with remdesivir, an antiviral medication that was the first treatment approved for COVID-19.

A surprising finding was a low rate of heart problems among all patients.

"Asian patients showed higher rates of cardiorespiratory disease severity when they arrived at the hospital," Rodriguez said. "That was an interesting finding. They tended to be older and to come to the hospital later in the disease progression."

More information

For more on COVID-19, go to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCE: Stanford University, news release, Nov. 17, 2020

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