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The coronavirus is particularly deadly for people with pre-existing conditions and continues to disproportionately affect people of color, according to data from the CDC.
Coronavirus patients with underlying health conditions were hospitalized six times more often than otherwise healthy patients during the first four months of the pandemic, and they were 12 times more likely to die, according to federal health data released Monday.
The data, reported by state and territorial health departments and compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, covers more than 1.7 million cases of Covid-19 and 103,700 deaths, all between Jan. 22 and May 30. The information shows the disproportionate effect the virus continues to have on different groups, including Black and Latino people, the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
“The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be severe, particularly in certain population groups,” the report says. “These preliminary findings underscore the need to build on current efforts to collect and analyze case data, especially among those with underlying health conditions.”
Older patients were hospitalized most frequently, according to the data, but the increased risk for complications due to underlying medical conditions is present in all age groups. Roughly 45% of patients with existing conditions ended up in the hospital, compared to 7.6% of otherwise healthy patients. And nearly 20% of patients with secondary conditions died, compared to 1.6% of those without.
Most commonly, Covid-19 patients reported having heart disease (32%), diabetes (30%) and chronic lung disease (18%).
Nearly all minority groups were disproportionately stricken by the virus. About 33% of coronavirus patients were Latino, compared to 18% of the U.S. population; 22% were Black, compared to 13% of the national population, and 1.3% were Native American or Alaskan Natives, compared to .7% of the population. Not all cases tracked by the CDC contained data on race or ethnicity, the report notes—only about 45%—but the partial findings “are consistent” with a prior analysis that “found higher proportions of Black and Hispanic persons among hospitalized Covid-19 patients than were in the overall population.”
The vast majority of patients reported tangible symptoms, while 4% were asymptomatic, according to the data. But it’s likely that asymptomatic cases are simply “not captured well” in case surveillance, the report notes, as patients without symptoms are unlikely to seek testing on their own.
The data as a whole likely underestimates the prevalence of both underlying health conditions and the overall number of cases, the CDC emphasizes.
“Not every case in the community is captured through testing, and information collected might be limited if persons are unavailable or unwilling to participate in case investigations or if medical records are unavailable for data extraction,” the report says. Still, “these data demonstrate that the Covid-19 pandemic is an ongoing public health crisis in the United States that continues to affect all populations and result in severe outcomes including death.”
Kate Elizabeth Queram is a staff correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington D.C.