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Reproduced from Kaiser Family Foundation; Chart: Axios Visuals

Racial disparities exist at every stage of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report by Epic Health Research Network and the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Why it matters: The more we learn about the coronavirus's disproportionate impact on people of color, the clearer it becomes that this is much more than just a health care problem.

The big picture: Non-white Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with the coronavirus, more likely to suffer serious illness, more likely be hospitalized because of the virus, and more likely to die from it, the report found.

  • The study analyzed Epic's electronic health record data for around 50 million patients across 21 states.

By the numbers: Death rates for Black and Hispanic coronavirus patients were more than twice as high as the rate for white patients, and were at least twice as likely to test positive, even though testing rates didn't vary much by race or ethnicity.

  • Larger shares of people of color were tested in an inpatient setting — a sign that they'd been experiencing symptoms — and they were more likely to be sick enough to require oxygen or ventilation when diagnosed.

Between the lines: The higher coronavirus infection rate among people of color "likely reflects their increased risk of exposure to coronavirus due to their work, living, and transportation situations," per the report.

  • It notes that despite higher exposure to the virus, people of color don't get tested at higher rates than white people and concludes that "people of color may face increased barriers to testing that contribute to delays in them obtaining testing until they are in more serious condition."
  • Higher hospitalization and death rates for people of color aren't fully explained by individual socioeconomic factors or underlying health conditions, per the report. "This finding suggests that other factors, including racism and discrimination, are negatively affecting their health outcomes through additional avenues," it concludes.

The bottom line: The findings "illustrate the importance of considering a wide array of factors both within and beyond the health care system and addressing structural and systemic racism and discrimination as root causes as part of efforts to address health disparities," the authors write.

Go deeper

Dec 24, 2020 - Health

California becomes first state to surpass 2 million coronavirus cases

A clinician cares for a COVID-19 patient in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Providence St. Mary Medical Center amid a surge in COVID-19 patients in Southern California on Wednesday in Apple Valley, California. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California surpassed 2 million COVID-19 cases on Thursday morning, per Johns Hopkins University.

Why it matters: It's the first U.S. state to exceed 2 million coronavirus infections. While it took California over nine months for 1 million people to test positive for the virus, state health officials have confirmed 1 million cases in six weeks, the Mercury News notes.

VA first federal agency to require COVID vaccines for employees

A medical doctor gives the thumbs-up sign to a COVID-19 patient who is no longer using a respirator at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in New York City. Photo: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

The Department of Veterans Affairs said Monday it would require its frontline health care workers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus within the next two months, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The VA is the first federal agency to mandate that employees receive the vaccine. The decision comes as cases of the Delta variant in the U.S. have increased dramatically.

3 hours ago - Health

Biden: Americans with long-COVID symptoms may qualify for disability resources

President Biden speaking in Arlington, Virginia, on July 23. Photo: Oliver Contreras/Sipa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Americans experiencing long-term symptoms of COVID-19 may qualify for disability resources from the federal government, President Biden announced Monday during an event to mark the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Driving the news: The departments of Justice and Health and Human Services released new guidance Monday that categorizes “long COVID" as a physical or mental impairment, entitling people with the illness to discrimination protections under the the ADA.