The COVID-19 pandemic has caused millions of infections and hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide since late 2019.

The disease, caused by novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, has spread across the United States.

Although anyone can get COVID-19, some people are more at risk. And in the United States, that includes racial and ethnic minorities.

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The Risk of COVID-19 in Racial and Ethnic Minorities

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), members of some racial and ethnic minority groups are more at risk of severe illness or death during public health crises.

According to CDC data, racial and ethnic minorities are more at risk of infection or severe illness from COVID-19. The hospitalization and death rates are higher in those groups than in non-Hispanic whites.

  • Non-Hispanic Native Americans or Alaska Natives are five times more at risk of hospitalization than non-Hispanic whites.
  • Black Non-Hispanic people are five times more at risk of hospitalization than non-Hispanic whites.
  • Hispanic or Latino people are four times more at risk of hospitalization than non-Hispanic whites.

According to APM Research Lab, Black Americans had the highest mortality rate: more than double that of white Americans.

Why Are Minorities More at Risk of COVID-19?

Several factors may play a role in why some racial and ethnic minorities are more at risk of being affected by COVID-19.

  • Existing medical conditions: Black Americans and other racial minority groups are more likely to suffer from chronic medical conditions than non-Hispanic whites, according to the CDC. People with underlying conditions like heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes are more at risk of COVID-19.
  • Job status: Members of racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to hold jobs deemed as “essential services.” The risk of infection may be greater in jobs like health care, meat-packing plants, grocery stores, and factories. Many people had to keep working in those industries for economic reasons. Many others may lack paid sick leave.
  • Economic status: People in minority communities earn less on average than non-Hispanic whites, have higher joblessness rates, and on average have less education and saved income. This may affect where they live and work, which in turn can affect health outcomes.
  • Less access to health care: Racial and ethnic minorities may have less access to health care. They are more likely to be uninsured or underinsured and may not live closely to a health care facility. This puts them more at risk of getting the care they need to prevent or treat health conditions.
  • Living conditions: People in racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to live in densely populated locations or multi-generational homes. Some minority groups are more likely to be over-represented in jails, detention centers, prison centers, and homeless shelters. They may live further from essential services such as grocery stores and medical facilities and may be more likely to use public transportation. These factors all can increase the risk of COVID-19 spread.
  • Systemic racism: Inequality in living and working conditions and in society at large can make it more difficult for people in racial and ethnic minority groups to get proper care.

How Can We Help People in Minority Communities Amid COVID-19?

The CDC recommends health authorities, community groups, and health care providers work together to address the health care disparities in minority communities. This includes providing accurate information, reaching out to communities to address inequalities, and providing better access to health care.

“UPMC is committed to providing quality care for everyone, regardless of race or ethnic minority,” says Graham Snyder, MD, medical director of Infection Prevention and Hospital Epidemiology at UPMC.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues in the U.S., prevention methods remain crucial. Ways to limit the risk of COVID-19 spread include:

  • Social distancing: Avoiding large crowds and close contact (6 feet or closer) with others
  • Wearing cloth face coverings when out in public
  • Washing hands frequently with soap and water
  • Cleaning and sanitizing commonly touched surfaces
  • Monitoring your health and seeking care if you experience COVID-19 symptoms like fever, cough, or shortness of breath

UPMC’s Center for Engagement and Inclusion strives to bring equity in health care to the diverse communities we serve. Visit UPMC.com for more information.

For more information on UPMC’s COVID-19 efforts, visit UPMC.com/COVID19.

About UPMC

Based in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and more than 700 doctor’s offices and outpatient centers. Our expert physicians are among the leaders in their fields, and we are leaders in groundbreaking research and treatment breakthroughs. UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside ranks as “One of America’s Best Hospitals” and No. 1 in Pennsylvania in U.S. News & World Report’s listings.