National Coalition of Ethnic Minority Nurse Associations
Position Paper
COVID-19 in Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups

Recent studies released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)1,2 and the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) suggests a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups. About 1 in 3 people who become sick enough to require hospitalization from COVID-19 were ethnic minorities. 3
“The study of about 1,500 hospitalized patients in 14 states underscores the long-standing racial disparities in health care in the U.S. It also echoes what has been seen in other coronavirus outbreaks around the world — people with chronic health conditions have a higher likelihood of developing a serious illness after being infected with coronavirus. Overall, the report found that about 90% of people in the hospital with COVID-19 had at least one underlying health condition. Half (50%) had high blood pressure, 48% were obese, 35% had chronic lung disease and 28% had diabetes and cardiovascular disease”.4 In 2013, the CDC released the “Health Disparities and Inequalities Report 4 examining some of the key factors that affect health and lead to health disparities in the United States. Significant findings revealed four major concerns on health disparities:

  1. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Non-Hispanic
    black adults are at least 50% more likely to die of heart disease or stroke prematurely
    (i.e., before age 75 years) than their non-Hispanic white counterparts. 
  2.  The prevalence of adult diabetes is higher among Hispanics, non-Hispanic blacks, and
    those of other or mixed races than among Asians and non-Hispanic whites. Prevalence is
    also higher among adults without college degrees and those with lower household
  3. The infant mortality rate for non-Hispanic blacks is more than double the rate for non-Hispanic whites. Rates also vary geographically, with higher rates in the South and
    Midwest than in other parts of the country.
  4. Men are far more likely to commit suicide than women, regardless of age or
    race/ethnicity, with overall rates nearly four times those of women. For both men and
    women, suicide rates are highest among American Indians/Alaska Natives and non-Hispanic whites. 
These findings illustrate the importance of recognizing the fact that people 65 years and older, and people of all ages with underlying medical conditions are at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19. The high incident rates of underlying medical conditions among racial and ethnic minority groups is particularly alarming. It requires immediate attention by public and private sectors, decision makers, professional organizations and community leaders, amid the COVID – 19 pandemic.