More than half of all in-hospital deaths due to COVID-19 during the first six months of 2020 were among Black and Hispanic patients, according to a new study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Duke University School of Medicine.
The researchers did not find any racial or ethnic differences in mortality rates among people hospitalized with the disease. Yet a disproportionate number of Black and Hispanic people became sick enough to require hospitalization, and they made up 53% of inpatient deaths.
Fatima Rodriguez, MD, assistant professor of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford, is the lead author of the study, which was published Nov. 17 in Circulation. Tracy Wang, MD, professor of medicine at Duke University, is the senior author.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown a spotlight on racial and ethnic disparities in health care that have been happening for years,” said Rodriguez, an expert in health disparities in cardiovascular medicine. “Our study shows an over-representation of Black and Hispanic patients in terms of morbidity and mortality that needs to be addressed upstream before hospitalization.”
Researchers examined a sample of 7,868 patients hospitalized with the coronavirus at 88 hospitals across the country between Jan. 17 and July 22. The data was collected from the American Heart Association’s COVID-19 Cardiovascular Disease Registry. The average mortality rate for all patients was 18.4%.
The researchers found that white patients accounted for 35.2% of the sample, Hispanic patients for 33%, Black patients for 25.5% and Asian patients for 6.3%.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that white people make up 60% of the nation’s population, Hispanic people 18.5%, Black people 13.4% and Asian people 5.9%.
Hospitals, not race and ethnicity, tied to mortality rate
“Interestingly, more of the variations in mortality were explained by the site of the care than by race or ethnicity,” Rodriguez said. “We need to understand more about differences between hospitals. Is it different treatment protocols that are rapidly evolving during the pandemic? Or perhaps minority-serving hospitals have different resources? This is an active area of research within the registry used for this study as we enroll more sites across the country.”