COVID-19 cases and deaths by race / ethnicity: current data and changes over time
COVID-19 cases and deaths by race / ethnicity: current data and changes over time

COVID-19 cases and deaths by race / ethnicity: current data and changes over time

During the COVID-19 pandemic, analyzes of federal, state, and local data have shown that colored people have experienced a disproportionate burden of cases and deaths. They have shown particularly large differences in cases and deaths of black and American Indians and Native Americans (AIAN) and in cases among Hispanic people compared to their white counterparts. Based on weekly data on COVID-19 infections and deaths from the CDC, this analysis examines racial differences in COVID-19 cases and deaths and how they have changed over time. It updates an analysis from October 2021 to reflect data through early 2022, amid the recent rise in the Omicron variant.

Differences in the total number of COVID-19 cases and deaths

Cumulative data over time show persistent differences in cases for Hispanics and deaths for blacks. From 15 February 2022, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a total of over 61.4 million cases where race / ethnicity was known for 65% or over 40.3 million, and a total of over 780,000 deaths for which race / ethnicity was known for 85% or over 660,000. These estimates are based on a subset of data for which case-level demographic information has been reported to the CDC by state health departments so that they differ from those reported elsewhere. For example, the CDC reports a total of over 920,000 deaths from COVID per February 15, 2022. As shown in Figure 1, among cases and deaths of known race / ethnicity:

  • Hispanics represent a larger proportion of cases relative to their share of the total population (24% vs. 18%), while their share of deaths is more proportional to their share of the population (17% vs. 18%). The difference in cases in relation to their share of the population has decreased slightly over time. For example, in early October 2021, they accounted for 27% of cases.
  • Black people make up a similar proportion of cases relative to their share of the population (13%), but account for a slightly higher proportion of deaths compared to their population share (14% versus 13%). This pattern has been consistent since October 2021.
  • AIAN and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander (NHOPI) persons make up the corresponding proportion of cases and deaths relative to their proportions of the population, which is in line with data from October 2021.
  • White people account for a lower proportion of cases compared to their proportion of the population (54% vs. 60%), but a greater proportion of deaths compared to their proportion of the population (63% vs. 60%). The higher proportion of deaths relative to their proportion of the population reflects a shift from October 2021, when their proportion of deaths was slightly lower than their proportion of the population. This shift broadly reflects a higher death rate compared to other groups in the fourth quarter of 2022, in the midst of the Omicron rise.
  • According to data from the beginning of October 2021, Asian people account for a lower proportion of cases and deaths compared to their population share (4% and 3% respectively against 6%).

When data is adjusted to account for differences in age distribution by race / ethnicity (ie, colored people are generally younger than whites), there are greater differences for Hispanics, blacks, and AIANs. people. Figure 2 shows the risk of infection, hospitalization, and death for black, Hispanic, Asian, and AIAN individuals compared to whites based on age-adjusted rates across these groups. It is important to adjust for age because the risk of infection, hospitalization, and death varies by age, and the age distribution varies by race and ethnic group. If age is not taken into account, racial and ethnic differences may be underestimated or overestimated. These age-standardized data show that Hispanics, blacks, and AIANs are about twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as their white counterparts, and that Hispanics and AIANs are one and a half times more likely to have COVID-19 infection than White people. These data also show large differences in COVID-19 hospital admissions for AIAN, blacks, and Hispanics. These overall differences in age-adjusted risk of infection, hospitalization, and death have narrowed over time. As of November 30, 2020, Hispanics, blacks, and AIAN people were nearly 3 times more likely to die of COVID-19 and about 4 times more likely to be hospitalized as white people. The CDC does not report this data to NHOPI individuals.

Changes in differences in cases and deaths over time

Analysis of weekly data about COVID-19 infections and deaths from CDC show differences in infections, and deaths are both widened and narrowed during the pandemic (Figure 3). These analyzes are based on cases and death rates that have not been adjusted for age. These unadjusted rates are likely to underestimate racial differences, especially for COVID-19 deaths, as the white population is older compared to color populations, and COVID-19 death rates have been higher among older individuals. During periods when the virus has risen sharply, inequalities have generally increased, while they have decreased as the total infection rate decreases. However, during the course of the pandemic, specific patterns of differences have varied by race and ethnicity, and between cases and deaths.

Trends in cases

  • Early in the pandemic, Hispanics, AIANs, and blacks had a higher proportion of COVID-19 cases compared to their white counterparts, with a particularly high proportion among Hispanics. Asians had the lowest weekly infection rate. The number of cases increased through the winter of 2021, increased in January 2021, and inequalities widened further for Latin Americans and AIAN people.
  • Following the increase in January 2021, weekly infection rates fell across all groups. In early June 2021, the gap between the groups narrowed.
  • However, in mid-August 2021, infection rates rose again across groups, reflecting the spread of the Delta variant. Prices were initially higher for black, Hispanic, and AIAN people compared to white people during this resurgence. By September 2021, the infection rate among black, Hispanic, and white people had softened and got closer to each other. In contrast, the AIAN case rate continued to rise and remained higher compared to other groups, while Asian people maintained the lowest infection rate.
  • From January 2022, infections again rose sharply across all groups in the midst of the spread of the Omicron variant, resulting in the highest cases recorded since the onset of the pandemic. The frequency was higher for all groups of color compared to white people, with Hispanic people having the highest infection rate during this increase. As of January 8, 2022, the infection rate among Hispanic people was more than twice as high as for white people (1,104 versus 570.5 per 100,000 people). This increase was also the first time since early in the pandemic that the infection rate for Asian and Pacific Islanders was higher compared to other groups.
  • By the beginning of February 2022, the infection rate had dropped sharply and the differences were narrowing again. This may reflect an overall decrease in cases as well as some delays in data reporting.

Trends in deaths

  • Between the spring of 2020 and the early part of the summer of 2020, AIAN, Latin American and black people had higher death rates compared to white and Asian people, with a particularly high death rate among AIAN people. Death rates fell during the summer of 2020, and inequalities narrowed, although death rates for AIAN individuals remained higher compared to other groups. Deaths peaked in December 2020 across groups, with the highest death rates among AIAN and Hispanics.
  • After this peak, weekly death rates fell across racial and ethnic groups, and differences between the groups narrowed in early summer 2021.
  • In mid-August 2021, death rates rose, reflecting the spread of the Delta variant, with a particularly large increase for AIAN people. Death rates were similar for blacks and whites, while remaining slightly lower for Latin Americans and lowest for Asians. After the Delta rise, weekly death rates dropped across races and ethnic groups, with a slightly lower rate for Hispanics and blacks compared to white people in late September 2021.
  • Death rates remained high for AIAN individuals and lowest for Asians through the arrival of the Omicron variant in early December 2021, when the death rates for AIAN individuals decreased compared to white people. While the death rate for Hispanics remained lower than that of whites, the mortality rate among blacks increased, similar to the rate for whites and higher compared to other groups on January 1, 2022. Data are not yet available to assess patterns through the rest of Omicron the ascent.

Discussion

In summary, these data show that black, Hispanic, and AIAN people have generally experienced higher rates of COVID-19 infection and death compared to white people, especially when age differences across racial and ethnic groups are taken into account. The data also suggest that although these differences have at times narrowed during the pandemic, colored humans are disproportionately affected by increases caused by new variants, with differences becoming greater during these periods, especially for infection rates. However, the pattern of death rates in the middle of part of the Omicron rise has varied from previous rises, with white and black people having the highest death rates during this period.

In the midst of the recent increase in the Omicron variant, all color groups have experienced higher infection rates compared to white people, with a particularly large increase in the case of Hispanics. This increase was also the first time since early in the pandemic that the infection rate for Asian and Pacific Islanders was higher compared to other groups. The higher infection rates among people of color are likely to reflect increased exposure risks due to work, residence and transport situations, including being more likely to work in jobs that cannot be performed remotely, living in larger households and relying on public transport. Black and white people have experienced the highest death rates in the midst of the recent rise, although the data on deaths are delayed and do not reflect the entire rise period. This pattern may reflect higher death rates among older groups and in non-metropolitan areas amid recent increases as well as in the southern region of the country, which is home to larger sections of the black population. It may also reflect other factors, including differences in vaccination rates and remedial measures across groups and different areas of the country. Although there have been a significant number of breakthrough cases during the Omicron increase, vaccination – especially with boosters – remains extremely effective in reducing the risk of hospitalization and death. Looking ahead, it is important to continue to assess COVID-19 health / ethnicity impacts in order to both identify and address differences and prevent further expansion of health differences going forward. While the differences in cases and deaths have narrowed and widened over time for some groups due to a variety of factors, the underlying structural inequalities in health and health care and social and economic factors that put colored people at increased risk in the beginning of The pandemic remain. As such, they may remain at increased risk as the pandemic continues to evolve and for future health threats.

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