While the majority of coronavirus-related deaths in the U.S. have occurred among White people, Hispanic and Black people are disproportionally represented in the nation’s fatalities. The latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), released on Friday, found that the percentage of deaths among those groups are higher than the population percentage that they represent nationally.
Using data collected from May through August 2020 on coronavirus-related deaths in the U.S., the health agency found that 51.3% of the deaths occurred among White people, while 18.7% of overall deaths occurred Black persons despite representing just 12.5% of the U.S. population, and 24.2% involved Hispanic persons despite representing 18.5% of the population.
Additionally, Hispanic persons represented the largest increase in fatalities, as they accounted for 14% of COVID-19 deaths that occurred from February 12 through May 18, but represented 25% of fatalities in August.
“Although there has been a geographic shift in COVID-19-associated deaths from the Northeast to the West and South, where Hispanic persons account for a higher percentage of the population, this analysis found that ethnic disparities among decedents in the West and South increased during May-August, 2020, suggesting that the geographic shift alone does not entirely account for the increase in Hispanic decedents nationwide,” the agency stated.
The agency said disparities in coronavirus cases and deaths among Hispanic persons and other minorities are well-documented, and are potentially related to increased risk of exposure, limited access to health care, or differences in the prevalence of underlying health conditions among racial and ethnic groups.
The CDC also reported a decreasing percentage of deaths among persons aged 65 or older and persons in nursing homes which were once a hotbed for deaths early on in the pandemic. The researchers noted that the downward shift may signal younger populations and noninstitutionalized patients may be getting hit harder by the virus.
The agency noted that the data is subject to delays, so it likely underestimates the number of deaths that occurred and that it did not address long-term morbidity among coronavirus survivors and did not account for deaths and morbidity “related to the indirect effects of interrupted health care and socioeconomic disruption caused by the pandemic.”
However, despite those limitations, the health agency said the report does show a shift in COVID-19-associated deaths that occurred between May and August.
“Racial and ethnic disparities among COVID-19 decedents have persisted over the course of the pandemic and continue to increase among Hispanic persons,” the report stated. “These results can inform public health messaging and mitigation efforts focused on prevention and early detection of infection among disproportionally affected groups so as to minimize subsequent mortality.”
As of Monday, Johns Hopkins University researchers had tallied 219,706 deaths in the U.S., and over 1.1 million worldwide.