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The premier resource for hospital professionals from Relias Media, the trusted source for healthcare information and continuing education.

Demographic Data Show Men, African Americans Disproportionately Hit by COVID-19

By Jill Drachenberg, Editor, Relias Media

Early demographic data show startling trends in populations infected by COVID-19.

It is no surprise that COVID-19 hospitalization rates are highest among older adults (31.1% ages 50-64 years, and 43.4% ages 65 years and older). But a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) COVID-19–Associated Hospitalization Surveillance Network (COVID-NET) revealed that men tend to experience more serious complications than women. African Americans also are more likely to be hospitalized than patients of other races.

Nationwide, the overall COVID-19 hospitalization rate is 12.3 per 100,000 people. COVID-NET researchers examined hospitalization data from 99 counties in 14 states. Males comprised 49% of the COVID-NET population, yet accounted for 54% of COVID-19-related hospitalizations. African Americans made up 18% of this population, but accounted for 33% of hospitalizations. Ninety percent of hospitalized patients experienced one or more underlying conditions, including lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure.

“[This suggests] that black populations might be disproportionately affected by COVID-19,” according to the CDC report. “These findings, including the potential impact of both sex and race on COVID-19-associated hospitalization rates, need to be confirmed with additional data.”

The American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Nurses Association expressed their concerns to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and urged the office to take action to address racial disparities, including using resources of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities to collect data, research, and develop approaches to address the needs of minority populations. They also encouraged developing culturally appropriate public service announcements, fact sheets, and other communications tailored to different communities.

"As organizations that are deeply committed to equity in health status and health care, we have long recognized differences in the incidence and prevalence of certain chronic conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, and hypertension — conditions that are now known to exacerbate symptoms of COVID-19,” the associations wrote in a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “We also recognize that other factors, including but not limited to socioeconomic status, bias, and mistrust of America’s health care system, may be resulting in higher rates of infection in communities of color. Lack of access to timely testing and treatment will inevitably lead to worse outcomes for these patients.”

Relias Media remains committed to providing the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak for healthcare providers. Our COVID-19 content is continuously updated at: