NHLBI Director addresses racial disparities in COVID-19 testing data, infections

busdriver with mask puts protecting gloves on his hand in bus to protect himself from the coronavirus epidemic. Pandemic coronavirus 2020.

Data shows that African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans are disproportionally affected by COVID-19, both in rate of infections and deaths, and in the severity of disease.

However, the current testing data seems spotty and might not be painting an accurate picture of the intensity of the pandemic and how it is unfolding in low-income, Black and brown communities, according to data presented at the COVID-19 and Black Communities: A Workshop, hosted by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Black people are dying at 2.1 times the rate of whites. At the workshop, NHLBI Director, Gary Gibbons, MD, discussed the institute’s response to the pandemic, as well as the interplay of clinical characteristics, comorbidities, and the social determinants of health that are putting African Americans at higher risk for COVID-19 infections and complications.

In an interview after the workshop, Gibbons expressed concern about the very high rates of positive tests in low-income, mostly minority neighborhoods presented at the workshop by cardiologist Garth Graham, vice president of community health at CVS Health.

“Those were extraordinary numbers,” Gibbons said. They are “a yellow flag that those areas ought to be targeted for more intense testing and tracing.”

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