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CDC studies of coronavirus ER visits, hospitalizations find racial disparities

Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg

New studies released Monday by the US Centers for Control and Prevention have found racial and ethnic disparities in both coronavirus emergency room visits and hospitalizations, adding yet more evidence that some minority groups have been hit harder by the pandemic.

The emergency room study looked at data from 13 states, including Massachusetts, from Oct. 1, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2020. It found that Hispanic and Native American people had 1.7 times the rate of emergency room visits of white people. Black people had 1.4 times the rate of emergency room visits of white people.

“These findings are consistent with those of previous studies showing disproportionate COVID-19 incidence, hospitalization, and mortality among these racial/ethnic groups,” the study said.

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“The racial/ethnic groups that sought [emergency department] care for COVID-19 at disproportionately higher rates have also experienced long-standing, systemic inequities that affect their health,” the study noted. “These inequities include limited access to quality health care, lower general health status and access to quality education, and disproportionate representation in essential jobs with less flexibility to work from home or take medical leave.”

The study said racism is “a key driver” of the health inequities, which can increase someone’s risk of getting the coronavirus and delay medical care for someone who has it.

The second study found, consistent with previous studies, that “racial and ethnic minority groups experienced higher proportions of COVID-19–related hospitalization compared with White patients.”

The study was based on an analysis of hospitalizations from a database including more than 3.7 million hospital discharges and approximately 300,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients during March–December 2020.

The study found that the largest disparities occurred early in the pandemic, from April to July 2020, and they “became less pronounced over time as COVID-19 hospitalizations increased among White patients. However, as of December 2020, disparities remained among racial/ethnic minority groups in all regions, most notably among Hispanic patients in the West.”

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The first study concluded that it was “important to prioritize prevention resources, management of underlying health conditions, safe school and work conditions, flexible leave policies, and enhanced access to and acceptability of SARS-CoV-2 testing and COVID-19 vaccination services to reach disproportionately affected racial/ethnic groups and reduce the need for emergency care for COVID-19.”

“Efforts such as these are critical to address the drivers of racial/ethnic disparities,” the study said.



Martin Finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com.