Younger Blacks and Latinos Are Dying of Coronavirus at Much Higher Rates Than White and Asian Peers in California

Riverside County medical personnel help each other with personal protection equipment at a drive-though coronavirus testing facility for Coachella Valley residents in Indian Wells. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

Black and Latino Californians ages 18 to 64 are dying more frequently of COVID-19 than their white and Asian counterparts relative to their share of the population, a Los Angeles Times analysis of state health department data show.

Newly released figures on the grim toll of the novel coronavirus show once again profound disparities in people’s odds of survival that fall along racial and ethnic lines. In this case, the data also belie the conventional wisdom that old age is the primary risk factor for death.

When accounting for each group’s share of the population, black and Latino patients under the age of 65 had higher rates of fatality than even older blacks and Latinos — although people over 65 still make up the overwhelming majority of COVID-19 deaths. The trend is particularly noticeable among those age 18 to 49, The Times analysis found.

Preliminary racial data released by health officials in California and L.A. County earlier this month suggested Latinos were not facing any higher rate of infection or death from the virus. But experts warned that those findings were likely skewed by the fact that Latinos, California’s largest ethnic group, are typically younger than other demographics. Experts predicted that higher rates would emerge once more complete data came out.

That seems to have been borne out in recent days, as the state health department began providing more detailed data, broken out into age groups, to account for the variation among racial and ethnic groups.

“What we’re seeing is that in the younger population … the differences for both blacks and Latinos, now, became very evident,” said Dr. Sonia Angell, director of the California Department of Public Health.

As the pandemic wears on, stark disparities in COVID-19 health outcomes have highlighted socioeconomic inequities between races and unequal access to healthcare. Recent deaths also reveal the major role that underlying health conditions such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and asthma play in the amplified suffering of black and brown communities.

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SOURCE: Los Angeles Times, Ben Poston, Tony Barboza and Alejandra Reyes-Velarde