If the concerns of scientists and public health exerts are right (hint: they are), this winter is going to make us long for the—comparatively—good ol’ days of summer when rates of COVID-19 decreased from that of the spring. However, while summer death rates dipped compared to earlier this year, the warmest months actually brought increased mortality to one group of people.
According to the latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released by the CDC, death rates from COVID-19 increased in Hispanic populations during the summer months, while death rates among Black, white, Asian, and all other ethnic groups decreased.
The report examined COVID-19—associated deaths in all 50 states reported to the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) for the period of May 1-August 31, 2020. It found that while the overall percentage of white people who died from COVID-19 decreased from 56.9% to 51.5%, and the percentage deaths of Black people decreased from 20.3% to 17.4%, the percentage of deaths from people of Hispanic origin increased from 16.3% to 26.4%. As the study notes, while the majority of people who died from COVID-19 were white, both Blacks and Hispanics were disproportionately affected:
Although a small decrease (2.9 percentage points between May and August) in decedents who were Black was observed, Black persons still accounted for 18.7% of overall deaths despite representing just 12.5% of the U.S. population. Similarly, Hispanic persons were disproportionately represented among decedents: 24.2% of decedents were Hispanic compared with 18.5% of the U.S. population. In addition, the percentage of decedents who were Hispanic increased 10.1 percentage points from May through August. Whereas Hispanic persons accounted for 14% of COVID-19–associated deaths in the United States during February 12–May 18, 2020, that percentage increased to approximately 25% in August.
While geographic shifts can be partly to blame for the overall increased death rates of Hispanics, the report’s authors point out such shifts aren’t the sole reason. Instead, they say both social and economic factors are contributing to the higher mortality share among Hispanics, including having limited access to healthcare and holding jobs in environments that make it hard to social distance.
As we enter the final months of the year, and winter nears, the report’s authors stress that the racial and ethnic disparities among COVID-19 decedents continue to persist—especially among Hispanics. To combat this, they urge public health authorities to focus prevention-related messaging and mitigation measures among Hispanics and other disproportionately affected groups. And of course everyone, no matter what your ethnicity, needs to wear a mask.