By Shelby Lin Erdman
(CNN) There’s new evidence more African Americans may be dying from coronavirus in the United States than whites or other ethnic groups, according to a new study.
Black Americans represent 13.4% of the American population, according to the US Census Bureau, but counties with higher Black populations account for more than half of all COVID-19 cases and almost 60% of deaths, the study found.
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Disparities, including access to health care, are likely to blame, researchers concluded in a report released Tuesday.
The team of epidemiologists and clinicians at four universities worked with amfAR, the AIDS research non-profit, and Seattle’s Center for Vaccine Innovation and Access, PATH, to analyze COVID-19 cases and deaths using county-level comparisons. Racial data is still lacking in many areas, and their analysis uses what data was available as of mid-April.
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They compared counties with a disproportionate number of Black residents – those with a population of 13% or more – with those with lower numbers of African American residents. Counties with higher populations of Black residents accounted for 52% of coronavirus diagnoses and 58% of COVID-19 deaths nationally, they said.
“Social conditions, structural racism, and other factors elevate risk for COVID-19 diagnoses and deaths in Black communities,” wrote the scientists from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, the University of Mississippi Medical Center and Georgetown University’s O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law.
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“Structural factors including health care access, density of households, unemployment, pervasive discrimination and others drive these disparities, not intrinsic characteristics of Black communities or individual-level factors.”
Of the more than 3,100 counties researchers looked at with coronavirus cases and deaths from late January to mid-April, they found a greater percentage of disproportionately Black counties were in the South. The African American populations ranged from 13% of the county total to over 87%.
“COVID-19 deaths were higher in disproportionally Black rural and small metro counties,” the study noted.
The research showed that by April 13, there were 283,750 COVID-19 diagnoses in disproportionately Black counties and 12,748 deaths compared with 263,640 coronavirus cases and 8,886 deaths in all other counties.
“Collectively, these data demonstrate significantly higher rates of COVID-19 diagnoses and deaths in disproportionately Black counties compared to other counties, as well as greater diabetes diagnoses, heart disease deaths, and cerebrovascular disease deaths in unadjusted analyses,” the authors concluded.
The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, is currently under consideration by a medical journal and has not yet been published.