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Most kids who died from COVID-19 in the US were children of color new CDC study finds, further highlighting racial disparities in pandemic

MassLive.com logo MassLive.com 5 days ago By Jackson Cote, masslive.com

A vast majority of kids who died from the coronavirus in the United States were children of color, a new study from the federal government found.

The study, published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday, found glaring racial disparities in deaths linked to the virus among those below the age of 21 and the presence of multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children, a severe illness that can arise from the viral respiratory infection.

Of the 121 people young than 21 who were killed by COVID-19 between Feb. 12 and July 31, 44.6% were Hispanic, 28.9% were Black, 4.1% were Asian or Pacific Islander and another 4.1% were non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native.

Although more than 75% of people in the United States are white, only 14% of the individuals in the study who died were white.

The CDC noted that the greater rate of adverse outcomes among racial and ethnic minorities is likely related to challenges in seeking health care for various reasons, including difficulty in accessing medical services due to a lack of insurance, child care, transportation or paid sick leave.

The agency pointed out that higher rates of people of color have been considered essential workers during the outbreak as well. Such individuals are unable to work from their homes, resulting in a greater risk of exposure to COVID-19 and transmission among household members, including infants, children, adolescents and young adults.

“In addition, disparities in social determinants of health, such as crowded living conditions, food and housing insecurity, wealth and educational gaps and racial discrimination likely contribute to racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19,” the CDC said in its study.

Dr. Preeti Malani, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Michigan, told NPR the findings were “heartbreaking.”

“The 121 deaths are a tiny fraction of the more than 190,000 deaths that have been reported in the United States,” Malani told the news outlet. “But for a long time, it was believed that children didn’t die from this.”

Medical workers, public health officials and politicians have pointed out salient racial inequities during the pandemic for months.

Early on in the public health crisis, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Ayanna Pressley sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, calling for comprehensive demographic data related to the virus, as communities with large Black and nonwhite Hispanic populations started to become coronavirus hotspots.

At the time, the lawmakers claimed a lack of information would "exacerbate existing health disparities and result in the loss of lives in vulnerable communities,” The Associated Press reported.

“Decades of structural racism have prevented so many Black and brown families from accessing quality health care, affordable housing and financial security, and the coronavirus crisis is blowing these disparities wide open,” Warren said in a statement.

Since March, numerous research studies have shown notable racial disparities in health outcomes and economic disadvantages due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Last month, data analyzed by the State House News Service showed that in Massachusetts, the state with the highest unemployment rate in the country, cities with more people of color were seeing disproportionate job losses.

In June, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health released data from its COVID-19 Health Equity Advisory Group, showing Black and Latino residents also have a positive COVID-19 case rate three times higher than white residents and significantly higher rates of hospitalizations.

As of last week, four of the 13 towns or cities in Massachusetts deemed high-risk for the spread of the virus were communities where a majority of residents are people of color. They included Chelsea, Everett, Lawrence and Lynn.

Framingham, Methuen, New Bedford and Revere, which were also labeled high-risk, have populations of color well above the statewide average as well at 35.2%, 37.4%, 38% and 45.5%, respectively, according to U.S. Census data.

Nationwide, research collected from Feb. 12 to May 18 found that the number of coronavirus-related deaths among those under the age of 65 is twice as high for people of color than for white people.

The high number of “out-of-hospital” deaths might reflect a lack of health care access, delays in seeking care or diagnostic delays, according to the CDC.

“Health communications campaigns could encourage patients, particularly those with underlying medical conditions, to seek medical care earlier in their illnesses,” the CDC said. “Additionally, health care providers should be encouraged to consider the possibility of severe disease among younger persons who are Hispanic, nonwhite or have underlying medical conditions.”

Related Content:

CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield: COVID scientific integrity ‘has not been compromised and it will not be compromised under my watch’

Sweeping plan to provide free COVID-19 vaccine to all Americans outlined by federal government; polls show skepticism around coronavirus vaccine

Telehealth, COVID-19 Response Command Center key factors in combatting outbreak in Massachusetts, officials say

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