Severe cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, are disproportionately affecting African American communities, according to a report published Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The analysis includes data from 1,482 coronavirus patients hospitalized in 14 states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee and Utah.
Among the 580 patients for whom race or ethnicity information was available, 45 percent were white and 33 percent were black.
When researchers factored in the racial breakdowns of people living in those 14 states, disparities became apparent.
Despite accounting for more than a third of the cases, African Americans make up just 18 percent of those states’ populations.
In contrast, the white population in those states is 59 percent, yet accounts for only 45 percent of hospitalized COVID-19 cases in the CDC report.
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"We don't think African Americans are more susceptible to getting infected," Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said Wednesday on NBC's "TODAY" show.
But she said her group was "very concerned" when it became clear that pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and asthma were associated with worse outcomes of the coronavirus.
Those underlying conditions tend to be more prevalent in communities of color, a finding that's been well documented in recent years.
But those stark differences become more apparent when the world is focused on an illness, in this case, the coronavirus.
Nearly 90 percent of those hospitalized patients in the CDC report had an underlying condition, with hypertension and obesity most commonly reported.
Other chronic health conditions that tended to accompany severe COVID-19 infections were lung disease, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.