Counties with high proportions of Asian, Black and Hispanic populations were hit harder by the coronavirus pandemic’s first and second waves than were predominantly white counties, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The report is the latest indication of the disproportionate burden the outbreak has had on racial and ethnic minorities.
In the CDC's findings, to be published in this week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, researchers found counties with high levels of Asian and Black residents were the first to experience big waves of coronavirus infections.
The report adds to a body of research that shows a respiratory virus like SARS-CoV-2 can spread more easily in communities that have been historically left behind by health care systems.
“Inequalities in social, economic an environmental conditions among racial and ethnic minority groups lead to disparities in health risks and outcomes, including those related to Covid-19,” the researchers wrote.
Over the first two weeks of April, about 11 percent of counties across the country experienced widespread transmission of the virus. But 29 percent of counties with high Asian populations and 28 percent of those with substantial Black populations reported significant spread as the virus ripped through New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, New Orleans and southwest Georgia.
In early August, as the second wave of coronavirus infections surged in the Southeast, two-thirds of American counties reported widespread transmission. That figure included 92 percent of counties with large Black populations and three-quarters of counties with high Hispanic populations.
At the time, counties suffering the worst outbreaks were in California’s Inland Empire, in the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas and along the Gulf Coast.
By contrast, counties with higher Asian American populations experienced lower spread during that August surge, driven in part by an ebb in the New York City area that was hit so hard in the first wave. Just over half, 52 percent, of counties with large Asian American populations experienced widespread transmission over that period.
The data adds to previous reports that show racial and ethnic minority groups made up disproportionate shares of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths in most parts of the country.
“Long-standing systemic social, economic, and environmental inequalities in the United States have put many communities of color (racial and ethnic minority groups) at increased risk for exposure to and infection with SARS-CoV-2,” the researchers wrote.