Jun 23, 2020 - Health

People of color have less access to coronavirus testing

Adapting Peter Walker and Kyle Slugg’s analysis of URISA’s GISCorpsCoders Against COVID, Esri, U.S. Census data; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, areas with largely white populations have had access to more testing sites than communities that are predominantly made up of people of color.

Why it matters: Black and Latino people are already more susceptible to infection and serious illness, and racial disparities in testing only contribute to that problem.

By the numbers: The whole country struggled to ramp up testing throughout the spring, but the ZIP codes with large white populations started off with more testing sites, and still have more testing sites, than ZIP codes with more people of color.

  • ZIP codes where the population is at least 75% white have an average of one testing site for every 14,500 people, according to an analysis by researchers Peter Walker and Kyle Slugg of the COVID Tracking Project, using data from Coders Against COVID.
  • In ZIP codes that are at least 75% people of color, it's an average of one site per 23,300 people.

Yes, but: This analysis only includes ZIP codes with at least one testing site. But nearly two-thirds of rural counties — home to some 21 millions of people — have no testing sites at all, according to an analysis by the nonprofit Surgo Foundation.

  • Racial disparities persist there, too. The Surgo Foundation found that 35% of the rural Black population lives in "highly vulnerable testing desert." Black Americans face an above-average risk of living in a testing desert, and in areas where cases are increasing.

The bottom line: The racial inequities baked into the U.S. health care system are a defining feature of this pandemic.

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