Black Americans represent only 13.4% of the American population, according to the US Census Bureau, but they account for more than half of all Covid-19 cases and nearly 60% of deaths, according to the study.
The disparities, including access to health care, are likely to be blamed, the researchers concluded in a report released Tuesday.
The team of epidemiologists and clinicians from four universities worked with amfAR, the AIDS nonprofit research and Seattle’s Center for Vaccine Innovation and Access, PATH, to analyze Covid-19 cases and deaths using county-level comparisons. Racial data are still lacking in many areas and their analysis uses data available in mid-April.
They compared counties with a disproportionate number of black residents – those with a population of 13% or more – with those with a lower number of African American residents. Counties with higher populations of black residents accounted for 52% of coronavirus diagnoses and 58% of Covid-19 deaths nationwide, they said.
“Social conditions, structural racism and other factors increase the risk of COVID-19 diagnosis and death in black communities,” wrote scientists from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, University of the Mississippi Medical Center and Georgetown University O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law.
“Structural factors including access to health care, family density, unemployment, pervasive discrimination and others determine these disparities, not intrinsic characteristics of black communities or individual factors.”
Of the more than 3,100 counties that researchers examined with coronavirus cases and deaths from late January to mid-April, they found that a larger percentage of disproportionately black counties were located in the south. African American populations ranged from 13% of the county total to over 87%.
“COVID-19 deaths were higher in disproportionately black counties in rural areas and small subways,” notes the study.
Research showed that by April 13 there were 283,750 diagnoses of Covid-19 in disproportionately black counties and 12,748 deaths compared to 263,640 coronavirus cases and 8,886 deaths in all other counties.
“Collectively, these data demonstrate significantly higher rates of diagnosis and deaths of COVID-19 in disproportionately black counties than other counties, as well as diagnoses of diabetes, heart disease deaths and cerebrovascular disease deaths in inadequate analyzes,” concluded the authors.
The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, is currently under consideration in a medical journal and has not yet been published.
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