Covid and Race

The death rate for white Americans has recently exceeded the rates for Black, Latino and Asian Americans.

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By David Leonhardt

One of the defining characteristics of the pandemic’s early stages was its disproportionate toll on Black and Latino Americans.

During Covid’s early months in the U.S., the per capita death rate for Black Americans was almost twice as high as the white rate and more than twice as high as the Asian rate. The Latino death rate was in between, substantially lower than the Black rate but still above average.

“We’re most vulnerable to this thing,” Teresa Bradley, a nurse in Michigan, told The Times in 2020, after surviving a Covid hospitalization. When she was wheeled through the emergency room, she was pained to see that every other patient she saw there was also Black.

These large racial gaps seemed as if they might persist throughout the pandemic, especially because white and Asian Americans were initially quicker to receive vaccine shots. Black and Latino Americans, by contrast, had less convenient access to the shots and many were skeptical of them.

But these large racial gaps in vaccination have not continued — and as a result, neither have the gaps in Covid death rates.

Instead, Covid’s racial gaps have narrowed and, more recently, even flipped. Over the past year, the Covid death rate for white Americans has been 14 percent higher than the rate for Black Americans and 72 percent higher than the Latino rate, according to the latest C.D.C. data.

Weekly Covid death rates

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