MONDAY, May 3, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Workplace exposure to the new coronavirus is a significant reason for Hispanic Americans’ disproportionately high COVID-19 death rate, a new study claims.
In 2020, Hispanics accounted for 19% of the U.S. population but nearly 41% of COVID-19 deaths, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show.
An analysis of federal government data revealed that far higher percentages of working-age (30-69) Hispanics died from COVID-19 than working-age whites. For example, Hispanics aged 35-44 and 55-64 had higher-than-expected proportions of deaths of 15.4 and 8 percentage points, respectively. In contrast, whites in those same age groups had mortality advantages of 23 and 17 percentage points, respectively.
A separate analysis of case estimates found a similar pattern of unequally high COVID-19 infection rates for Hispanics, meaning that the higher death rates among working-age Hispanics is consistent with greater exposure to the virus, according to the authors. The study was published recently in the journal Demographic Research.
“There was no proof before this paper that really demonstrated that the extra cases were precisely in those working age classes,” said study co-author Reanne Frank, a professor of sociology at Ohio State University.
“Particularly for front-line and essential workers, one of whom Hispanics are overrepresented, COVID-19 is an occupational disease that spreads in the office,” she said in a university news release. “Hispanics were on the front lines, and they bore a disproportionate cost.”
Knowing that there’s a connection between essential work and a higher rate of COVID-19 deaths should prompt improved workplace protections, said study co-author D. Phuong Do, an associate professor of public health policy and administration at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
“If we know the source of the spread, then we could tackle it head on,” Do said in the release. “This finding is equally related to any illness that’s highly infectious. We can not stop the market — we have learned that. There needs to be a way to protect the employees and apply security.”
The researchers said the findings challenge suggestions that disproportionately high COVID-19 death rates among Hispanics and other minorities are driven by preexisting health conditions and/or lower quality health care.
“There’s this urge when we’re trying to comprehend racial health disparities — even new ones like COVID that appeared very fast — to obscure the role of structural aspects, which includes work environments,” Frank said.
“This evidence can hopefully set the record straight about the Hispanic community, together with other teams overrepresented among front-line workers, took such a significant hit from this pandemic — that it was because they were doing their tasks, and putting themselves on the line,” she said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19 racial/ethnic disparities.
SOURCE: Ohio State University, news release, April 29, 2021