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New analysis shows pronounced racial inequities among COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths

Summary

Updated data shows that in King County, COVID-19 is disproportionally impacting communities of color. There is more to do collectively to support all communities with access to testing, information and social supports to address inequities in health outcomes.

Story

Public Health – Seattle & King County is releasing updated data on COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths by race and ethnicity. The data shows that rates of confirmed COVID-19 cases for Hispanics, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders is four times that of Whites. The rate of confirmed cases for Blacks is double that of Whites. Rates are higher for American Indian/Alaskan Native populations (but not statistically significantly higher because of low numbers) and the rate for Asians is similar to Whites.

The new analysis also provides information on COVID-19 rates of hospitalizations and deaths by race and ethnicity, where the data also show disparities.

One of the more concerning trends Public Health officials see from the data is that the percent of cases by race and ethnicity appears to be shifting as the outbreak evolves. Over the past month, the proportion of COVID-19 cases among Whites has decreased, while the proportion of cases among communities of color has increased.

It is critical for us to do whatever we can to identify all health inequities associated with COVID-19 across our community," said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. "This sobering analysis tells us we have serious work to do to with community partners to understand and address the causes of these disparities as quickly as possible."

"Race and place are major predictors of underlying health conditions and health outcomes. These systemic inequities play out profoundly with COVID-19, both in terms of who is getting infected and at greater risk for severe complications from COVID-19," said Matías Valenzuela, Equity Director for Public Health – Seattle & King County.

There is more information needed to understand the risk factors that may be driving disparities. Health differences between racial and ethnic groups are often due to economic and social conditions. The risk of infection may be greater for workers in essential services that keep our society functioning. For instance, service workers aren’t generally able to telecommute and therefore have greater potential for exposure to COVID-19 than those who can stay at home during these difficult times.

The latest data confirm what so many in Public Health and King County communities have been concerned about—the tragic reality that this disease is exacerbating other inequities—putting people in harm’s way and at greater exposure to not just COVID-19 but to the social and economic impacts of the current crisis.

For more information, see the two recent posts on Public Health Insider:

Case updates

Daily totals for new COVID-19 cases and deaths are available on Public Health's Data Dashboard webpage, which updates as soon as data are available, typically between 1-3 p.m.

Isolation and quarantine facilities update

Isolation and quarantine is a proven public health practice for reducing the spread of disease. Examples of people who may need this assistance include people who cannot safely isolate from a family member who is elderly or medically fragile, or people experiencing homelessness. Individuals can only be placed into the King County sites after a health professional with Public Health has determined that they need isolation or quarantine.

Fifty-eight people are currently staying in King County isolation, quarantine and recovery facilities. The number of residents at King County's isolation and quarantine sites is included in regular updates provided by Public Health. No other identifying or personal information will be provided.

Additional information

  • Information about COVID-19 and the response in King County, be sure to check our webpage: www.kingcounty.gov/covid
  • Public Health publishes new information frequently through the Public Health Insider blog – please consider becoming a subscriber by choosing the option to "Follow Blog Via Email."