Black Women’s Risk of Covid Death Exceeds White Men’s in Study

Black U.S. women's risk of dying from Covid-19 is higher than that of most non-Black men, according to a study countering research showing that men are at higher risk of death from the coronavirus overall.

Black women were four times more likely to die of Covid than White men in the study of mortality figures from Georgia and Michigan that was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. Black men were still the most vulnerable group by race and gender, with a death rate more than six times greater than that of white men, according to the study.

The findings complicate the understanding of Covid as a disease that treats men more harshly than women, the researchers said. Racial factors, such as the high numbers of Black people in jobs that face the public, or in industries that don't allow for remote work, should be taken into account in access to vaccines and treatment, said Sarah Richardson, a Harvard University professor of the history of science and one of the study’s co-authors.

While the findings are distressing, they’re not unexpected, she said.

“If you were to to look at Georgia, for example, you would find that heart disease rates map exactly on to this pattern,’’ she said. 

High representation of U.S. Black women among certain employment sectors, like home health care, further shapes their risk of exposure to Covid infection, according to the report. “Black workers are disproportionately represented in public-facing jobs with increased risk of virus exposure including in healthcare, transportation, and the service industry,” the researchers wrote. 

Richardson hopes that this research will contribute to the argument of prioritizing access for the most vulnerable populations as states move into the vaccine phase. According to Bloomberg’s demographic vaccination tracker, states are lagging in vaccinating Black people. 

“It looks like the pattern of vaccines is following the path of access to health care, mobility and resources to get oneself to a vaccine and those are the same patterns that created greater vulnerability to being exposed to the virus in the earlier phase,” Richardson said. “It should lend urgency to that. It is the kind of knowledge that had people acted on it, it could save lives.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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