Coronavirus Is Killing Younger Black and Brown Californians

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Apr 27, 2020

Black and Latinx California residents under the age of 65 are reportedly dying more often as a result of COVID-19 compared to their White and Asian American counterparts, according to a new Los Angeles Times analysis. Relative to each group’s population, the report found that the novel coronavirus is hitting Black people, ages 18 to 49, especially hard; at slightly over six percent of the population, Black people represent 15 percent of the state’s total deaths.

Before this information became available, the Times shared preliminary data on April 8 that detailed cases and deaths broken down by race. At the time, Governor Gavin Newsom reported that the state’s numbers were tracking “along the lines of the total population,” but added, there is “nothing more frustrating [than the] systemic challenges, the disparities that manifest in relationship to public health.” As the numbers become clearer, so does the reality of health inequities.

“None of us knew what the numbers would look like, but we know that this is going to disproportionately affect communities that have fewer resources, have higher rates of underlying disease,” Sonia Angell, director of the California Department of Public Health, told the Times. “That’s the reality of inequities in our country. It’s something that we’re working very hard to address. It’s not acceptable. It’s not just.”

According to the Times’ analysis, Black patients ages 18-49 are “dying nearly two and a half times as often as their share of the state’s population. By comparison, Black people 65 and older are dying twice as often as their share of that age group. [Latinx] death disparities also go down as patients get older.” But for White and Asian American patients, the death ratios are about double among those 65 and older, compared to 18- to 49-year-olds. 

Health experts are now reconsidering the original thought that young adults were less susceptible to severe symptoms, as they are now seeing how having previous health conditions—such as hypertension, obesity and cardiovascular disease—regardless of age, increases risk. 

“When there is something like a pandemic virus that sweeps across all of our communities and we see that Black and Brown folks are dying at a greater rate, it’s something that we should all be concerned about, right, about what it says about whether we’re adequately meeting the needs of our entire population,” California’s surgeon general Nadine Burke Harris told the Times.