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If You're This Ethnicity, You're Way More Likely to Catch COVID-19

New research has found that one group of people has an overwhelming disadvantage.
Female doctor with a patient who is complaining of chest pain during coronavirus epidemic.

Early on in the pandemic, it became clear that COVID-19 does discriminate when it comes to age, gender, race, and ethnicity. Researchers have continued their efforts in determining groups of people who are being impacted on a greater level than others, as it can be incredibly helpful in developing everything from prevention to mitigation strategies. A new study has identified that one ethnicity is being hit particularly hard by coronavirus—and they are less likely to be insured than the rest of the population. 

Three Times as Likely To Test Positive

The study, published in JAMA, analyzed COVID-19 tests in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area and found that Latinx people were triple as likely to test positive for the virus compared to any other ethnic or racial group. In total, over 37,727 tests were performed with an overall 16.3% testing positive for COVID-19. Broken down into ethnicity and race, 42.6% were Latinx people, 17.6% were  Black people, 17.2% for people identified as "other," and 8.8% for white people.

Another interesting finding was that the virus skewed younger in this group. The majority who tested positive—61.5%—were aged 18-44 years. In this same age group, just 28.6% of Black patients who tested positive and 28% of white patients fell into this same age demographic. 

Why are Latinx more prone to infection and why is the virus skewing younger with them? Researchers believe it has to do with a "decreased opportunity for social distancing" due to "dense housing" (cramped living situations) and "continued work engagement due to essential worker status and economic necessity." To worsen the situation, people in the Latinx community are less likely than those in other groups to have health insurance. 

"Many of these patients tell me they delayed coming to the hospital until absolutely necessary because they were worried about medical bills, and were not sure if they could receive care because of their immigration status," study author Kathleen R. Page, MD, an associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Baltimore, MD, who treated many of the patients in the study, explained in a press release. "Most of the patients I've met are not eligible for benefits, have no health insurance, and rent rooms in crowded houses. The need to work, lack of occupational protections and crowded living conditions have led to high transmission in this community."

Blame on Systematic Exclusion

"It is clear that the systematic exclusion of this population from healthcare services has contributed to the disparities we see today. This pandemic has taught us that we are all interconnected. At the very least, we must engage with communities early and provide [language-appropriate] and culturally appropriate information and services, removing as many barriers to care as possible."

She hopes that the research will incite change. "Knowing what is driving these health disparities in each region is much-needed evidence to develop tailored policies and interventions to better serve all of our people," Martinez says. No matter your race, wear your face mask, social distance, wash your hands frequently, monitor your health, don't leave home unless it's essential and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.

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