COVID-19 affects Black individuals at higher rates and part of the issue is their jobs

NEW YORK — When it comes to COVID-19, the deadly virus doesn’t care about color or creed. There are however some factors that put Black individuals at higher risk of infection than others. According to the American Thoracic Society, researchers find Blacks are twice as likely as White individuals to contract COVID-19. The study reveals much of this has to do with their jobs.

Researchers examined over 4,400 individuals as part of this study. The group had an average age of 46, but those testing positive for coronavirus had an average age of 52. Those testing negative during the study, were slightly younger on average (45 years-old). Overall, 17.8 percent of the 4,413 people tested positive for COVID. Of this group, a staggering 78.9 percent were Black while just 9.6 percent were White.

“I think this really amplifies how pre-existing socioeconomic and health care disparities affect outcomes in the population,” study author Ayodeji Adegunsoye says in media release. “We already know that the common comorbidities that have been associated with COVID such as hypertension and diabetes disproportionately affect the Black community. So, it wasn’t too surprising that COVID-19 seemed to more commonly affect Black individuals as well.”

Certain jobs are putting more African-Americans at risk for COVID

The study finds representation of Blacks in the service industry is high. With that comes higher chances for exposure to the virus since many have been classified as essential workers.

“Even during precautionary lockdowns to reduce spread, these jobs were often deemed essential services, and included jobs such as bus drivers, janitors, city sanitation workers, hospital food production personnel, security guards, etc,” Dr. Adegunsoye explains. “So it wasn’t too surprising that Black people were disproportionately infected and subsequently hospitalized with the virus.”

The results of the study reveal a continuing pattern during the pandemic, which sees older patients suffering more severe symptoms. Study authors say there are “various reasons” why the virus is more inclined to affect more older individuals of color than anyone else.

“It’s a vicious cycle of sorts, as older people are more likely to have hypertension and other comorbid diseases, which further increase the risk for hospitalization with COVID. Even after accounting for their older age, Black patients were still at significantly increased risk of COVID-19 infection and hospitalization,” the assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago adds.

While these findings pinpoint who the virus affects the most, there are measures that could be put into place to curb the spread. Adegunsoye suggests COVID-19 screenings should be more accessible and free. The researcher also believes that proper marketing and awareness of COVID screenings will aid minority communities slow the virus down.

The study is published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society.

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