The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone in the U.S. Millions are unemployed. Hundreds of thousands of small businesses may close forever. More than 120,000 (as of this writing) have died from the illness that may result from infection and many more have suffered through days, and even weeks, of what is considered a “mild” form of the sickness, but which often is nevertheless debilitating.

Yet data has been suggesting for weeks that people in racial and ethnic minority groups are experiencing a “disproportionate burden of illness and death.” That link discusses the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) findings from April. Unfortunately, this incredible burden appears to have continued through middle- to late-June, according to an MIT Sloan School of Management study, “even after accounting for income, health insurance coverage, rates of diabetes and obesity, and public transit use. (Emphasis is ours.) 

What’s more, African-Americans are dying from the disease even more so than other minority populations:

  • A May study at a large California healthcare system found that Black patients had 2.7 times the odds of hospitalization as non-Hispanic White patients.
  • The senior director of health equity programs at the Association of American Medical Colleges said in June that “Black people are dying of COVID-19 at a rate more than twice our share of the population.” 
  • Hispanic/Latino individuals also are suffering far more from the disease than Whites: New York City back in April identified 74.3 deaths per 100,000 people among this population, far higher than White (45.1) and even Asian (34.5). The only group that was higher? African Americans, at 92.3 deaths per 100,000 population

In response, our State of MI testing program is centered around neighborhood sites specifically targeting these disproportionately affected groups. In fact, starting this week, NDS is opening 20 additional COVID-19 testing neighborhood sites to target these groups.

 

In addition, economic status does affect illness and death rates from COVID-19

While the MIT/Sloan study found that race/minority status affected illness and death even after accounting for income, etc., people with lower incomes are suffering from the debilitating effects of the virus more than people with middle- and high incomes.

According to a June 4 New York Times article, “scientists have identified some clear patterns” regarding which people who become sick from the virus are the most likely to die. 

Some findings:

  • Pre-existing medical conditions are one critical factor: About nine out of 10 New Yorker and Chicago residents who died from COVID-19 had underlying, chronic conditions. 
  • Yet those conditions are much more common among lower-income workers.
  • For example, kidney disease, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) among people in the poorest 10 percent of New Yorkers are estimated to be more than 40 percent higher than the median rate.
  • In fact, across the U.S., people with the lowest incomes have a lot higher rates of the conditions mentioned above, as well as obesity, asthma, high blood pressure, and kidney and pulmonary disease. It’s these chronic conditions that burden people who become infected with the COVID-19 virus with a 40 percent higher risk of severe illness. (Emphasis ours.)

 

What this means for employers

Employers starting to welcome employees back to working on-site should test their workers regularly.

This is of benefit to the employer, of course: no one wants their workplace to become a COVID-19 hotspot. But it’s also of great benefit – and can show a lot of care and concern on the part of the employer – for its workers, particularly those with lower incomes.

Here’s why:

  • Workers will know if they have contracted the virus and can take the necessary quarantine, stay-at-home steps to protect others.
  • Workers not infected will know that their on-site co-workers also don’t have the virus, making it easier to return on-site without stress and worry.
  • While not all employers will be able to do so, some may decide to pay workers discovered to be infected at normal or reduced pay rates while they stay at home for the recommended 14-day quarantine period. This could be of terrific value to low-income workers. (It also could be a great benefit to tout when recruiting.)

 

Bottom line: employers are going to have to play a big role in protecting their employees during the months we’ll all be dealing with the pandemic moving forward. With robust COVID-19 sequential testing, NDS Wellness can help businesses nationwide open safely and keep workers healthy. Contact us to learn more.