News & Events

Assessing Differential Impacts of COVID-19 on Black Communities

Posted on June 01, 2020

Source: Annals of Epidemiology

Assessing Differential Impacts of COVID-19 on Black Communities

Gregorio A. Millett, MPH; Austin T. Jones, MA; David Benkeser, PhD, MPH; Stefan Baral, MD, MPH; Laina Mercer, PhD; Chris Beyrer, MD, MPH; Brian Honermann, JD; Elise Lankiewicz, BA; Leandro Mena, MD, MPH; Jeffrey S. Crowley, MPH; Jennifer Sherwood, MSPH; Patrick Sullivan, DVM, PhD



Given incomplete data reporting by race, we used data on COVID-19 cases and deaths in US counties to describe racial disparities in COVID-19 disease and death and associated determinants.


Using publicly available data (accessed April 13, 2020), predictors of COVID-19 cases and deaths were compared between disproportionately (>13%) black and all other (<13% black) counties. Rate ratios were calculated and population attributable fractions (PAF) were estimated using COVID-19 cases and deaths via zero-inflated negative binomial regression model. National maps with county-level data and an interactive scatterplot of COVID-19 cases were generated.


Nearly ninety-seven percent of disproportionately black counties (656/677) reported a case and 49% (330/677) reported a death versus 81% (1987/2,465) and 28% (684/ 2465), respectively, for all other counties. Counties with higher proportions of black people have higher prevalence of comorbidities and greater air pollution. Counties with higher proportions of black residents had more COVID-19 diagnoses (RR 1.24, 95% CI 1.17-1.33) and deaths (RR 1.18, 95% CI 1.00-1.40), after adjusting for county-level characteristics such as age, poverty, comorbidities, and epidemic duration. COVID-19 deaths were higher in disproportionally black rural and small metro counties. The PAF of COVID-19 diagnosis due to lack of health insurance was 3.3% for counties with <13% black residents and 4.2% for counties with >13% black residents.


Nearly twenty-two percent of US counties are disproportionately black and they accounted for 52% of COVID-19 diagnoses and 58% of COVID-19 deaths nationally. County-level comparisons can both inform COVID-19 responses and identify epidemic hot spots. Social conditions, structural racism, and other factors elevate risk for COVID-19 diagnoses and deaths in black communities.

Read More