Senate Health Report Highlights Racial Inequities, Calls for Congressional Action

Research cited by Democrats on the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions in a new report reveals that Black Americans are dying from COVID-19 at a rate 3.4 times higher than white people. Among Latinos, COVID-19 accounts for one in five deaths, and the hospitalization rate for American Indian or Alaska Native patients is four times that of white people.

“The pandemic has just opened up a glaring wound in the health care system of our country,” committee member Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) said. “[People of color are] hit harder, mortality rates are higher, and they do not have access to health care so they can’t get the medical support they need.”

The analysis also identifies strategies to address the disparities, such as focusing pandemic-related public health initiatives, relief spending, and testing and contact tracing efforts in communities of color. Factors such as historic exploitation of these groups, segregation, and racism within the health-care system contribute to mistrust and reluctance to seek medical care among Black, Latino, and Native Americans, which may perpetuate unequal health outcomes, the report suggests. If Congress does not develop equitable vaccine distribution plans when one becomes available, the “virus will continue to spread rapidly throughout all of our communities and will not be contained,” Dr. Murray said.

Sources: NPR, October 1, 2020; Senate committee report, “COVID-19 & Achieving Health Equity,” September 2020.