As U.S. deaths increase, coronavirus takes greater toll on minorities | News

As many as 215,000 more people than normal died in the United States in the first seven months of 2020, suggesting that the number of lives lost to the coronavirus is significantly higher than the official toll. And half of the dead were people of color – Black Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and, to a significant degree, hitherto unrecognized, Asian Americans.

The new figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mark a stark difference: deaths among minorities during the crisis have risen far more than they have among white people.

As of the end of July, the official death toll in the US from COVID-19 was about 150,000. It has since grown to more than 170,000.

But public health authorities have long known that some coronavirus deaths, especially prematurely, were incorrectly attributed to other causes, and that the crisis could have indirectly led to the loss of many other lives by preventing or discouraging people with other serious diseases. to seek treatment.

People of color

Charlton Rhee, whose parents came to the U.S. from South Korea, both lost this COVID-19 this spring when the virus grew in New York City [AP Photo/Marshall Ritzel]

Disproportionate burden

A death toll from all causes in the seven-month period yields what experts think is a more complete – and more alarming – picture of the disaster and its racial dimensions.

People of color make up 40 percent of the U.S. population in July, but put about 52 percent of all “excessive deaths” above normal through July, according to an analysis by The Associated Press and The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization that criminalizes system.

“The toll of the pandemic shows just how persistent structural racism is,” said Olugbenga Ajilore, senior economist at the Center for American Progress, a public policy organization in Washington.

Earlier data on cases, hospitalizations and deaths revealed a particularly heavy toll on Black, Hispanic and Native American Americans, an inequality attributed to unequal access to health care and economic opportunities. But the increases in total deaths by race have not been reported so far; nor was the disproportionate burden on Asian Americans.

With this new data, Asian Americans are joining Black Americans and Hispanics among the heaviest hit communities, with deaths in each group this year at least 30 percent up compared to the average over the past five years, the analysis found. Deaths among Native Americans increased more than 20 percent, although that is likely a severe undercount due to a lack of data. Deaths among whites were up 9 percent.

The toll on Asian Americans has received far less attention, perhaps in part because the death toll – about 14,000 more than normal this year – has been much lower than among several other groups. Still, the 35 percent increase in Asian American deaths is the second highest, behind Hispanic Americans.

In an average year, about 1.7 million people die somewhere in the United States between January and the end of July. This year, the figure was about 1.9 million, according to the CDC.

Of the possible 215,000 extra deaths above normal by July – a total that has since risen to as many as 235,000 – most were officially attributed to coronavirus infections. The rest were accused of other causes, including heart disease, high blood pressure and other types of respiratory diseases.

The CDC has not yet provided a breakdown by race and ethnicity of the dead due to other causes. The newly released data is considered provisional and subject to change as more information is received. Certain categories of deaths – suicide or drug overdose, for example – often involve lengthy investigations before a cause is assigned.

The disproportionate effect of the outbreak on communities of color is not limited to a specific region of the country.

The virus first affected urban areas on the east and west coasts. But according to researcher Carrie Henning-Smith, University of Minnesota, differences have also been seen as the disease spreads across the country to southern and western states with large rural populations.

For example, Arizona reported nearly 60 percent more Native American deaths so far this year compared to previous years, and New Mexico recorded at least 40 percent more. Between the two states, at least 1,100 more Native Americans died than normal.

Asian Americans suffer ‘bot’

Another surprise: Only about half of Asian American deaths are officially linked to COVID-19, lower than for all other groups. Jarvis Chen, a lecturer at Harvard University’s public health school, said that Asian Americans may not be tested at the same rate as other groups, for reasons that are not clear, and that could result in some virus deaths to some otherwise.

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Arizona reported nearly 60 percent more Native American deaths so far this year compared to previous years, and New Mexico recorded at least 40 percent more [File: David McNew/Getty Images]

Dr. Namratha Kandula of Northwestern University reflected that theory. They also warned against generalizing about the underlying health of Asian Americans as a whole, noting that they are a diverse group from many different peoples and cultures.

“It’s not enough to clump them all together because it does not tell the whole story,” she said.

Charlton Rhee, whose parents came from the South Korea to the US, both lost this COVID-19 this spring when the virus was growing in New York City.

His mother, Eulja Rhee, went out one day, and when she returned, “she told me someone was coughing in her face” when she got off a bus, said Rhee, a nursing home manager in Queens. “She was wearing a mask, but it came into her eyes.”

She died at the hospital, just in time for her 75th birthday.

Rhee found out a day later that his father, Man Joon Rhee, had tested positive. “He had caught it from my mother,” he said. “His heart was broken. And he told me he wanted to know if it was OK to be with mom.”

He stayed home, received hospice care, and died at 83.

“The Asian American community has suffered greatly there,” and government officials provided little help, especially at first, Rhee said. Community associations had to step in with food strips, personal protective equipment and other assistance.

Income, housing and health inequalities

Racial differences in deaths predate COVID-19, and many forces combine to produce them.

Some color communities are more likely to have lower incomes and share housing with larger families, which increases the risk of transfer. They have higher rates of health problems, including diabetes, obesity and lung disease, the result of living in places where healthier foods are harder to obtain and the environment is polluted. The same factors may make them more likely to become seriously ill than die from the coronavirus.

They are more often uninsured and tend to live more often in hospitals. They are disproportionately arrested, which is linked to long-term effects on health.

Experts point to a long history of discrimination that causes mistrust of the health care system. And people of color are more likely to feel essential roles that require them to continue working during the pandemic.

Dr. Sobiya Ansari, who primarily works with patients of black immigrant cancer in New York City, worries if they miss or delay radiation or screenings. Though the city has seen double the number of Black deaths this year compared to previous years.

“If a storm hits and you are safe in your home, then you are safe,” she said. “Then there’s a population of people who don’t even have umbrellas. The storm hits and they just get really chased away.”