African Americans in Georgia are hospitalized for COVID-19 at far higher rates than their white counterparts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), presenting another stark reminder of the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on people of color.
In a sample of 305 patients admitted in March to eight Georgia hospitals — seven which were in Atlanta — 83.2 percent were black, while 10.8 percent were white, and 3.4 percent were Hispanic.
Researchers said the proportion of hospitalized COVID-19 patients who were black was “higher than expected” compared with overall hospitalizations. For example, at four of the hospitals, 80 percent of COVID-19 patients were black, compared with 47 percent of patients overall during the month of March.
“It is critical that public health officials ensure that prevention activities prioritize communities and racial groups most affected by COVID-19,” the researchers wrote.
The analysis did not show, however, that African Americans were more likely to die or need mechanical ventilation during hospitalization when compared with white patients.
While 73.8 percent the patients analyzed had underlying health conditions that put them at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19, those conditions were not significantly more common in black patients than white patients.
Georgia became one of the first states Friday to roll back restrictions on businesses and retailers aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, worrying advocates and experts who say it will have a negative impact on people of color.
Limited data from other states and cities has already shown people of color are disproportionately more likely to get infected with COVID-19. The CDC has previously estimated that black Americans make up 30 percent of COVID-19 cases while making up 13 percent of the population.
This is partly because people of color are more likely to work in essential fields where they are at increased risk of exposure to the virus, including health care and the service industry.
Because of the racial inequities in access to health care, African Americans experience higher rates of chronic conditions, including asthma and heart disease, that put them at greater risk for serious illness if they get COVID-19.