‘Concerning’ patterns of inequity in Wash. COVID-19 reports


Recent increases in cases among younger people highlighted by Institute for Disease Modeling

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Alarming trends of COVID-19 in the state of Washington highlight patterns of inequity and increased cases among younger people, a press release from Washington State Department of Health (DOH) stated.

Two new reports from DOH and the Bellevue-based Institute of Disease Modeling (IDM) analyzed COVID-19 data by age, race/ethnicity and primary language spoken. Both of the reports highlight the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on communities of color. The IDM report points to the recent increases in COVID-19 among younger people.

“We know the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the health inequities historically marginalized and oppressed communities already experience,” said Dr. Kathy Lofy, state health officer at DOH. “These data are deeply concerning and underline the critical need to address the COVID-19 impacts we’re currently seeing by prioritizing outreach, testing, education and related materials for disproportionately impacted communities in ways that are culturally and linguistically appropriate and accessible.”

“Public health interventions worked early in the COVID-19 epidemic to control cases, but communities of color experienced less of that benefit,” added Dr. Marita Zimmermann, research economist at IDM. “Now more and more young people of color in Washington are getting infected. COVID-19 exploits the inequities in health and wellbeing in our society, and this analysis sheds light on the people most in need of protection.”

The DOH’s report findings include the following:

  • Hispanic people and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander people have had case rates that are nine times higher than those of White people, over the pandemic.
  • Death rates are three times higher among Hispanic people and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander people compared to White people. The rates are twice as high among American Indian or Alaska Native people and over 50 percent higher among Black and Asian people.

In addition, analyses of these rates by region show COVID-19 is found in significant numbers across racial and ethnic groups, regardless of the area, such as rural, urban or suburban regions.

There have also been high rates of hospitalizations among people whose primary language is not English or Spanish, which analysts suggest may be due to those communities experiencing more severe disease due to increased exposures and/or barriers to quality and affordable care. Researchers also caution that limited data on primary language must be interpreted with caution.

IDM’s report includes the following:

  • A recent shift to younger age groups has been the pattern for cases. People under age 35 represented 22 percent of cases from January to March and by May/June represented 46 percent of cases.
  • An increasing concentration of cases in Hispanic people has also occurred, with Hispanics making up 58 percent of COVID-19 cases with known race and ethnicity since the beginning , despite making up only 13 percent of the state’s population. Several factors may make Hispanic people at higher risk, including living in larger households, limited access to healthcare and working in essential services.
  • On a per capita basis, recent data show Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander people have the highest risk.
  • Hispanic people were 13 times more likely and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander people were 17 times more likely to get COVID-19 compared to White people during May and June.
  • Disparities among groups are widening. The groups experiencing a higher COVID-19 burden in June are largely the same groups that have been disproportionately impacted in previous months.

More COVID-19 data is available on the DOH data dashboard and IDM’s InfoHub.

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