Black and Hispanic Americans are twice as likely to test positive for COVID-19 as white Americans, researchers report.
For the study, an international team collected data on about 6 million people but found no differences in the number who died 30 days after testing positive for SARS-CoV-2.
Yet the findings highlight the need for better ways to contain and prevent outbreaks in racial and ethnic minority communities in the United States, the study authors said.
“Most studies investigating racial and ethnic disparities to date have focused on hospitalized patients, or have not characterized who received testing and those who tested positive. In this study, we compared patterns of testing and test results for COVID-19 and subsequent mortality by race and ethnicity in the Department of Veterans Affairs, the largest integrated health care system in the United States,” said lead author Christopher Rentsch, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, in England.
Rentsch’s team looked at all those who were in care just before the pandemic began, then identified who was tested, who tested positive and who died within 30 days after a positive test.
At each of these stages, the investigators looked at differences among people who are Black, Hispanic and white.
Between Feb. 8 and July 22, more than 254,000 people were tested and more than 16,000 were positive for COVID-19. Among Black patients, 10% tested positive as did 11% of Hispanics and 4% of white patients.
Among those who tested positive, more than 1,000 died within a month, but no difference by race or ethnicity was seen, the study authors said.
“Minority individuals who received a positive COVID-19 test did not appear to have worse outcomes,” Rentsch said in a school news release. “However, our findings suggest these communities face a substantial excess burden of COVID-19 infection.”
The disparity between Black people and white people varied by region, with the Midwest showing the biggest gap, and the West, the smallest.
While the gap between Black patients and white ones shrank over the study period, it was highest in places that had an early or resurgent outbreak. The disparity between Hispanic people and white people was consistent across time, geographic area and outbreak pattern, the researchers found.
“Understanding what is driving these disparities is vital so that strategies can be tailored to curb the disproportionate epidemics in minority communities,” Rentsch said.
The findings were recently published online in the journal PLOS Medicine.
For more about COVID-19, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.