Nonwhite patients more likely to have severe COVID-19, study finds

Nonwhite patients more likely to have severe COVID-19, study finds

Written by Timothy Huzar on July 21, 2020 — Fact checked by Hannah Flynn, MS

New research indicates that white, non-Hispanic patients are less likely to have a severe form of the illness caused by SARS-CoV-2.

Share on PinterestA new study confirms racial disparity in COVID-19 severity.

The research, published in the journal Radiology, provides further evidence of the disproportionate effects of issues concerning race and ethnicity on the severity of COVID-19.

The sudden emergence and rapid spread of SARS-CoV-2 could arguably have been a leveler of social difference: In theory, anyone could catch the virus and risk a severe case of COVID-19, which can lead to death.

However, as António Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations has noted, “The virus does not discriminate, but its impacts do, exposing deep weaknesses in the delivery of public services and structural inequalities that impede access to them.”

COVID-19 and structural racism

One way that these structural inequalities have become apparent is the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on people who are not white.

The reasons for this are complex and multifaceted, but histories of structural racial discrimination — which, as recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations have sought to highlight, are very much alive in the present — are evidently central to the disparity in treatment and access to services.

These issues became clear to radiologists at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), in Boston, and its associated respiratory clinic during the peak of the first wave of the pandemic.

As Dr. Efren J. Flores, a radiologist at MGH and co-author of the study, pointed out, “It got to the point where half of our patient population admitted with COVID-19 were underrepresented minorities [in our local population].”


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