Impact of COVID-19 on the health of ethnic minorities

by Dipti Venkatesh

COVID-19, the pandemic that has devastated the world and taken more that 618,000 lives in the USA alone, is a mirror of our healthcare system. A disproportionate amount of racial and ethnic minorities have died due to COVID-19. A statistic by the CDC states that the death toll of Black or African American, Non-Hispanic persons is 2.0 times more than White, Non-Hispanic persons; 2.4 times more for American Indian or Alaska Native, Non-Hispanic persons; and 2.3 times more for Hispanic or Latino persons. This disparity directly translates to the lack of health equity. 

There are many reasons why racial and ethnic minorities are more susceptible to COVID-19, three being occupation, environment, and education. People from racial and ethnic minorities make up a large proportion of essential workers such as retail, public transportation, and factory personnel. These jobs increase the chance of exposure to COVID-19 because of close contact with other people and in-person work. Crowded living spaces and unstable housing thwart COVID prevention efforts like quarantining and self-isolation. The close proximity to other family members/housemates mitigates the use of social distancing and proper hygiene. Unstable housing situations can lead to homelessness or inadequate living situations which contributes to a COVID positive environment. Many racial and ethnic minorities simply just have not gotten educated on COVID prevention measures. Because they do not know what symptoms to look out for and what to do when they might have the virus, they are unable to catch the illness in its early stages and receive proper treatment.

Racial and ethnic minorities do not have the same chances for equitable health, so what is it being done to bridge the gap during this pandemic? The CDC is taking steps in the right direction which they outlined in their “COVID-19 Response Health Equity Strategy”.  There are four parts: “expanding the evidence base”, increasing the number of programs for “testing, contact tracing, isolation, healthcare, and recovery from the impact of unintended negative consequences of mitigation strategies”, “expanding program and practice activities to support essential and frontline workers to prevent transmission of COVID-19.”, and “expanding an inclusive workforce equipped to assess and address the needs of an increasingly diverse U.S. population”. 

As the CDC does their part to increase the probability of equitable health for racial and ethnic minorities, we should also do our part to ensure that these policies reach all vulnerable groups in our communities. 


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