An analysis of COVID-19 testing in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area of the United States found that Latinx people were around three times as likely to test positive, compared with any other ethnic or racial group.
The researchers who carried out the study believe that crowded living conditions and the economic necessity to continue working outside the home during the outbreak have contributed to higher rates of infection among Latinx communities.
They also note that Latinx people in the U.S. are less likely than those of other racial or ethnic groups to have health insurance.
“It is clear that the systematic exclusion of this population from healthcare services has contributed to the disparities we see today,” says study author Dr. Kathleen R. Page, an associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Baltimore, MD.
Dr. Page treated many of the patients included in the study.
“This pandemic has taught us that we are all interconnected,” she says. “At the very least, we must engage with communities early and provide and culturally appropriate information and services, removing as many barriers to care as possible.”
The research, which has been published in JAMA, involved a collaboration between the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the university’s Center for Data Science in Emergency Medicine.
The researchers analyzed results of tests for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, at five Johns Hopkins Health System hospitals and 30 outpatient clinics in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area.
All the tests were carried out between March 11 and May 25, 2020.
Of the 37,727 tests performed, 6,162 (16.3%) were positive for the new coronavirus. The occurrence of positive tests by ethnic and racial grouping was 42.6% for Latinx people, 17.6% for Black people, 17.2% for people identified as “other,” and 8.8% for white people.
Unusually for this infection, the majority of the Latinx patients who tested positive, 61.5%, were relatively young, aged 18–44 years.
By contrast, 28.6% of Black patients who tested positive and 28% of white patients who did so fell within this age range.
In another discrepancy, Latinx patients who tested positive and were hospitalized were much less likely to have been diagnosed with preexisting health conditions than people of other races and ethnicities.
Rates of hypertension, congestive heart failure, pulmonary disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were seemingly much lower among Latinx patients than Black or white patients.
It is unclear whether poor access to healthcare among Latinx people meant that these conditions remained undiagnosed.