A patient is seen lying on a bed in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on January 1 in Houston, Texas.
A patient is seen lying on a bed in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on January 1 in Houston, Texas. Go Nakamura/Getty Images

Racial and ethnic minority groups had higher rates of hospitalization for Covid-19 and sought emergency department care more when compared to White people, according to two new studies published Monday in the US Centers for Disease Control and Preventions Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 

 “Analysis of hospitalizations from a database including more than 3.7 million hospital discharges and approximately 300,000 hospitalized patients during March – December 2020 found that racial and ethnic minority groups experienced higher proportions of Covid-19 related hospitalization compared with White patients,” the first study said.

In every region, Hispanic patients represented the highest cumulative proportion of hospitalized patients with Covid-19.

Disparities in the proportion of hospitalized patients was largest early in the pandemic – from April to July – and became less pronounced as hospitalizations increased among White patients. Declining disparities are not necessarily reflective of reduced risk for minorities, but of increased risk for White patients, the authors said.

However, disparities remained at the end of the study period in all regions, particularly among Hispanics in the West. 

The researchers say that these disparities are driven by a higher risk factor for exposure to the coronavirus and a higher risk of severe disease.

The second study found that some racial and ethnic groups, including Hispanic, American Indian or Alaska Native and Black people, received emergency department care for Covid-19 at “disproportionately higher rates” compared to White patients. 

There were 282,220 Covid-19 emergency department visits from 13 states between October and December 2020 and racial/ethnic disparities were observed across age groups. 

Hispanic patients and American Indian or Alaska Native patients were more likely to seek emergency department care for Covid-19 than White people overall, as well as for each age group examined. Black people age 74 and older were more likely to seek emergency department care than White people, but no differences were observed for those under 75. 

The data used in the study came from 13 states, meaning that it may not be generalizable across the country. White people also represent a larger percentage of the population in the 13 states, compared with national population distribution. 

The authors say that it is important to prioritize prevention resources, management of underlying health conditions, safe school and work conditions, flexible leave policies and enhanced access to and acceptability of Covid-19 testing and vaccination to reach these disproportionately affected groups.