CDC COVID racial disparity report does not surprise Chicago-area health officials

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report showed the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black and brown communities in 2020.

"It was right on the target. Our Black and brown communities have been the hardest hit," said Jackie Rouse, vice president of community health for Illinois for Advocate Aurora Health.

David Ansell, the chief health officer for Rush University Medical Center, said it was not surprising.

"All that COVID did is plant its roots in the pre-existing social fault lines, the pre-existing conditions of America," he said.

The study looked into racial and ethnic disparities with hospitalizations with COVID-19 last year. The gap with non-Hispanic whites was the largest from May through July across the country.

In the Midwest, the gap was the largest between Blacks and whites in March. For Hispanics and Asians relative to whites, the disparities in the proportion of COVID-19 hospital patients were the biggest May through June.

The racial and ethnic gap nationwide became less pronounced over the course of the pandemic last year as the proportion of white patients in the hospital increased, not because health outcomes improved for minorities.

The report revealed the disparities were driven by higher risk of exposure and for developing severe disease due to underlying conditions among Black and brown populations..

"We have to address social determinants of health," Rouse said, which includes access to healthcare, environment, education and income.

Answell said the prescription for the health inequities is tackling the disease of racism.

"If we don't take on systemic racism and how it's inherent devaluation of people leads to harm and premature mortality, we will never be able to dig ourselves out of it," he said.
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