Racial Disparities Linked to COVID-19 Hotspots

Aug. 26, 2020

Communities of color suffered a disproportionate number of COVID-19 infections in 79 hotspots between February and June, according to a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report focuses on counties that were identified as hotspots from June 5-18 and that had available racial data. Of those counties, which span 33 states including California, Ohio and Wisconsin, 96.2% had COVID-19 incidence disparities in one or more underrepresented racial/ethnic groups: Hispanic, Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian and Native Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander.

Disparities among Hispanic populations were identified in approximately 75% of the hotspot counties. Disparities among Black populations were identified in approximately 28% of the hotspot counties.

The report highlights several factors that may contribute to disparities, including:

  • Economic and housing policies;   
  • Essential worker employment;   
  • Multigenerational households;   
  • Discrimination and social inequities; and   
  • Limited access to healthcare and underlying health conditions.

The MMWR concludes that existing health inequities, as amplified by COVID-19, highlight the need for continued investment in communities of color to address social determinants of health and structural racism that affect health beyond this pandemic. Long-term efforts should focus on addressing societal factors that contribute to broader health disparities across communities of color.

IHA and the Illinois hospital community have undertaken numerous initiatives to address health inequities. To further enhance these efforts, in June the IHA Board of Trustees established a permanent standing committee on health disparities.