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Racial Disparities Seen in Excess Mortality Early in Pandemic

THURSDAY, Feb. 4, 2021 -- Adjusted excess all-cause mortality in April 2020 varied by race/ethnicity and by state, according to a study published in the February issue of Health Affairs.

Maria Polyakova, Ph.D., from Stanford University in California, and colleagues examined geographic variation in excess all-cause mortality by race and ethnicity during COVID-19. Individual-level administrative data on the U.S. population between January 2011 and April 2020 were used to estimate variation in excess all-cause mortality, which allows for a better understanding of the pandemic than COVID-19-attributable mortality.

The researchers found that in April 2020, the adjusted excess all-cause mortality was 6.8 per 10,000 for Black people and 4.3, 2.7, and 1.5 per 10,000 for Hispanic, Asian, and White people, respectively, nationwide. Substantial geographic variation was observed. Michigan and Louisiana had markedly different excess Black mortality (18.3 and 9.8 excess deaths, respectively, per 10,000), despite similar excess White mortality (2.8 and 2.7, respectively, per 10,000), as did Pennsylvania compared with Rhode Island (10.6 versus 3.4 excess deaths per 10,000 for Blacks; 1.8 versus 1.7 per 10,000 for Whites). No significant excess White mortality was seen in Wisconsin (0.27 per 10,000), while significant excess Black mortality was observed (4.6 per 10,000). In New York and New Jersey, excess White mortality was 7.1 and 8.6, respectively, per 10,000 people, while for Black people, the corresponding figures were 32.7 and 24.7 per 10,000.

"Our results suggest that factors driving racial/ethnic disparities may well differ across states," the authors write.

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