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Disparities persist as US tops 500,000 COVID deaths

ABC News logo ABC News 2/23/2021

One year after former President Donald Trump told Americans that the novel coronavirus was "very much under control in this country," the United States on Monday surpassed 500,000 deaths from COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

a group of people sitting around a car © Callaghan O'hare/Reuters

The virus has spread far and wide, with reported infections in every county in the nation, but there remains a persistent undercurrent of inequality in COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

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Black and Hispanic individuals are still twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as white Americans and three times more likely to be hospitalized with the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That disparity is even more stark for the American Indian population. Compared to white Americans, American Indian communities are almost four times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID and more than twice as likely to die from the disease.

table: CDC Data on Deaths by Race and Ethnicity © CDC CDC Data on Deaths by Race and Ethnicity

"It’s important to realize that the 500,000-person death toll that we have crossed didn’t to have be," Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told ABC News.

"As we move forward into a new phase of the pandemic with a vaccine program, it is critical to remember that until the vaccine is in the arms of vulnerable populations, we will continue to experience more deaths and hospitalizations," he said.

table: CDC Data on Deaths by Race and Ethnicity © CDC CDC Data on Deaths by Race and Ethnicity

Age has also remained a clear risk factor for dying of COVID-19, with death rates rising with each successive decade.

table: CDC Data on Deaths by Age © CDC CDC Data on Deaths by Age

With their high populations, counties in Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago emerged as some of the places in the country with the most deaths during the course of the pandemic, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Drilling down into those numbers mirrors national data and shows that the pandemic has been disproportionately hard on people of color in those cities.

chart, bar chart: 10 Most Impacted Counties © John Hopkins University 10 Most Impacted Counties

As of late February, the COVID-19 death rate was highest among Hispanic residents and second-highest among Black residents in Los Angeles County.

"Once again, our Latinx community is bearing the worst from the pandemic,” Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County's public health director, said during a news briefing earlier this month. New York City reported a similar dynamic, with the highest death rates among Hispanic residents, followed by Black residents.

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In Chicago, Black residents fared worst, with the highest reported death rate of any group.

ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos and Samara Lynn contributed to this report.

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