After initially saying that Black Americans are dying at about two times the rate of their white counterparts from COVID-19, the CDC has updated its publicly reported figures to show that the racial disparity in deaths from the disease is even wider.
An adjusted data report published by the agency this week now shows that Black people are actually dying from the coronavirus at almost 3 times the rate of their white counterparts. The change came after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D—Mass.) requested that the agency account for the disproportionate age breakdown in COVID-19 deaths experienced by people of color in the overall mortality rate for different racial demographics, reports CNBC.
In a letter to the CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield sent last month, Warren said the agency’s publicly shared data on the death rate in communities of color did not “tell the full story” because the rates did not adjust for age, which is a standard approach to measuring disease impact.
The agency previously said Hispanic and Black Americans were dying at a rate of about one and two times higher than Caucasians, respectively.
The updated analysis also shows that American Indians or Alaska Natives have died at a rate 2.6 times that of White Americans. The CDC previously put that figure at 1.4 times as high as White Americans.
The CDC’s previous infographic, which downplayed the disproportionate burden on communities of color, was widely shared, including in the agency’s “Framework for Equitable Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccine.” The CDC appears to have updated the analysis on Nov. 30.
Warren says the new estimates are alarming and should serve as a wake-up call to the federal government to address the racial disparities and the systemic racism that underlies them.
The CDC has made no public announcement of the changes outside of sharing a new death rate infographic on its website.
The incoming Biden administration will be tasked with responding to the racially disproportionate way this pandemic is playing out across the country by targeting the myriad of factors—structural inequities in access to healthcare, food, and fair employment among them—causing non-white Americans to be sickened and killed more often by COVID-19.
Meanwhile, on Friday the U.S. reached a record high of 227,885 coronavirus cases and a staggering 2,010 average daily deaths from the virus, reports CNN.
Though health care workers and other high risk groups are expected to begin receiving a COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks, it will likely be months before most of the population will be able to do the same—and even longer for anything resembling herd immunity to be a reality, given latent fears and proliferating conspiracy theories about the safety of the newly developed vaccines.