New analysis shows pronounced racial inequities among COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Public Health – Seattle and King County is releasing updated data on COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths by race and ethnicity. The data shows that rates of confirmed COVID-19 cases for Hispanics, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders is four times that of Whites. 

The rate of confirmed cases for Blacks is double that of Whites. Rates are higher for American Indian/Alaskan Native populations (but not statistically significantly higher because of low numbers) and the rate for Asians is similar to Whites.

The new analysis also provides information on COVID-19 rates of hospitalizations and deaths by race and ethnicity, where the data also show disparities.

One of the more concerning trends Public Health officials see from the data is that the percent of cases by race and ethnicity appears to be shifting as the outbreak evolves. Over the past month, the proportion of COVID-19 cases among Whites has decreased, while the proportion of cases among communities of color has increased.

“It is critical for us to do whatever we can to identify all health inequities associated with COVID-19 across our community,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle and King County. “This sobering analysis tells us we have serious work to do to with community partners to understand and address the causes of these disparities as quickly as possible.”

Matías Valenzuela, Equity Director for Public Health – Seattle and King County, said
“Race and place are major predictors of underlying health conditions and health outcomes. These systemic inequities play out profoundly with COVID-19, both in terms of who is getting infected and at greater risk for severe complications from COVID-19.”

There is more information needed to understand the risk factors that may be driving disparities. 

Health differences between racial and ethnic groups are often due to economic and social conditions. 

The risk of infection may be greater for workers in essential services that keep our society functioning. For instance, service workers aren’t generally able to telecommute and therefore have greater potential for exposure to COVID-19 than those who can stay at home during these difficult times.

The latest data confirm what so many in Public Health and King County communities have been concerned about—the tragic reality that this disease is exacerbating other inequities—putting people in harm’s way and at greater exposure to not just COVID-19 but to the social and economic impacts of the current crisis.

For more information, see the two recent posts on Public Health Insider:


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