CDC report shows higher COVID-19 burden on minority groups

Regulation | May 06, 2020 | by Juliana Bilowich

HUD Secretary Ben Carson has been tasked with leading a White House council to examine the effects of the virus on underserved communities.

Older adults are uniquely at-risk for COVID-19, and current CDC data have also shown a disproportionate effect on minority racial and ethnic group health.

In a recent call with housing stakeholders, Vice President Pence and HUD Secretary Carson discussed the disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on minority groups and underserved communities. The Vice President announced that the White House’s Opportunity and Revitalization Council, chaired by Secretary Carson, would shift its work to surging coronavirus resources to where data are showing the needs are most pressing.

COVID-19 in Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups

Recent CDC data suggest a disproportionate burden of illness and death as a result of the coronavirus among racial and ethnic minority groups. A recent morbidity and mortality report highlighted disparities in COVID-19 impacts on certain groups, including higher rates of hospitalization and death by age, race, and ethnicity.

The initial data suggested an overrepresentation of blacks among patients hospitalized for COVID-19, and identified death rates among Blacks/African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos that were substantially higher than that of whites or Asians:

  • Black/African American persons - 92.3 deaths per 100,000 population
  • Hispanic/Latino persons - 74.3 deaths per 100,000
  • White persons - 45.2 deaths per 100,000
  • Asian persons - 34.5 deaths per 100,000

According to the CDC, studies are currently underway to understand the impacts and reduce disproportionate effects on the health of racial and ethnic minorities.

Health Disparities and Risk Factors

Health disparities can be influenced by a number of factors. According to the CDC, the following conditions can contribute to health outcomes:

  • Living conditions, like multigenerational households, food and medical deserts, racial residential segregation, and congregate living;
  • Work conditions, like socio-economic status, job type, and sick leave accommodations;
  • Health conditions, like underlying medical conditions, medical stigma, and lack of health care access.

These factors influence the health outcomes of all racial and ethnic minority groups. For example, the CDC reports that many members of racial and ethnic minorities live in neighborhoods that are further from a medical facility; similarly, both Hispanic and African American workers are overrepresented in essential industries that continue to work outside the home during shelter-in-place orders, putting them at higher risk of viral exposure.

Resident Characteristics in Federally-Subsidized Housing

Two recent HUD reports show continued overrepresentation of minority groups among HUD-assisted residents. The reports, both published this year, show characteristics of low-income renters in both HUD-housing and properties financed by the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program based on data from 2017: Characteristics of HUD-Assisted Renters and Their Units in 2017, and Understanding Whom LIHTC Serves: Data on Tenants in LIHTC Units as of December 31, 2017. In both types of federally-assisted housing, minority groups are overrepresented based on percent of the overall population.

Because HUD housing disproportionately serves both minority racial groups and older adults, the crisis takes on heightened urgency for residents in federally-subsidized housing. In addition, residents in HUD-communities have more have chronic health conditions than their peers without housing assistance, putting them at heightened risk of the virus.

LeadingAge continues to urge HUD and other federal agencies to support HUD-assisted senior housing communities through the COVID-19 crisis response and recovery. Affordable housing providers need increased access to PPE, testing, and financial supports.