LOS ANGELES — Black residents have the highest rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations among all racial and ethnic groups in Los Angeles County, new data show, a troubling disparity even as hospitalization rates for all groups have stabilized or started to decline.
The pandemic has amplified longtime inequities in the U.S. health care system that indicate who is most likely to die from the virus. Black residents in particular are more likely to have underlying medical conditions — such as diabetes and asthma — that place them at higher risk for COVID-19 complications.
Public health officials nationwide have tried not to blame people of color for underlying conditions by highlighting systemic racism in health care, including how a lack of access to insurance, income disparities and historical mistreatment have caused generations to distrust the health care system.
“A long history of inadequate access to the essential resources that support optimal health has resulted in Black residents across L.A. County and the country experiencing higher rates of disease that, as we know, put them at elevated risk for severe COVID illness,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a recent news briefing.
“Our trend lines validate this deplorable reality, which continues to contribute to the higher rates of hospitalizations and deaths from COVID experienced by our Black residents.”
On a weekly basis, for every 100,000 unvaccinated Black residents, more than 15 are hospitalized with COVID-19, higher than for both Latino and white residents, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported.
But even among vaccinated people, Black residents are more likely to be hospitalized: For every 100,000 vaccinated Black residents, about five were hospitalized on a recent weekly basis, twice as many as other groups.
And while coronavirus case rates continue to decline in L.A. County, a gap among racial and ethnic groups remains. For every 100,000 unvaccinated Black and Latino residents, there are about 150 weekly coronavirus cases; by contrast, for every 100,000 unvaccinated white residents, there are about 100 weekly cases.
The latest data highlight the importance of vaccinating Black residents, especially as the county offers Pfizer booster shots to those who have already been fully inoculated.
“This pandemic is the most devastating health crisis that we have faced in our lifetimes. And one of the ways to get over the pandemic is to have more people protected with the vaccines,” Ferrer said. “It’s also the way we save a lot of lives.”