Two years on and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hit Black and Hispanic populations at higher rates than White populations. In rural areas and smaller towns, people of color are more likely to die of COVID-19 and are more vulnerable to the disease due to a gap in healthcare accessibility, according to an article by The New York Times.
In the same article, it is reported that Black death rates this past winter were greater than those of white people by 34% in rural areas, 40% in small or medium cities, and 57% in larger cities and surrounding suburbs.
While the racial gap appears to have shrunk recently, this is in fact due to a worsening of the pandemic for white populations, rather than a substantial lessening for Black or Hispanic Americans. Latest variants are more contagious, with a greater rate of infection, meaning populations overall are seeing more infections.
From the first to second year of the pandemic, death rates fell by only 1 % in Hispanic populations and 6 % in Black populations, the CDC found. In fact, according to research led by Andrew Stokes, an assistant professor at Boston University, the second year of the pandemic was “deadly” for Black, Hispanic, and Native Americans in rural areas.
This is due to many reasons including inaccessibility to rural pharmacies, living far from hospitals and care centers, lower rates of booster shot distribution in communities of color, and lack of health insurance.
Currently, many living in urban populations hold the belief that “the pandemic is over” or not as serious as it is. However, people are still dying from this virus and developing debilitating long-COVID symptoms. These racial health disparities need to be addressed both by government and health institutions, and by individuals. As individuals, we can each play our part in limiting the spread of COVID-19, especially in vulnerable populations.
How to combat these racial health disparities
Continue to wear a mask. While mask-mandates have mostly been lifted across the country, there is no doubt that masking works to limit the spread of COVID-19. Continuing to mask indoors and in tightly populated areas will limit not only your exposure but the potential exposure of others. High-quality masks, rather than cloth masks, will give the best results, but any mask is better than no mask at all.
Use at home rapid tests frequently. Rapid testing before and after social gatherings will help ensure you are COVID free and not a risk to others. Rapid testing will also ensure you can get treatment and quarantine properly if you test positive. Be sure to test again even after symptoms have disappeared to be sure. Rapid tests are now widely available so keeping a stash at home and using them frequently is one of the best ways to make sure you are COVID-free.
Stay up to date with your boosters. Vaccines are still the number one way to protect against COVID-19. Even if you are fully vaccinated, staying up to date on your boosters is important as variants continue to surge. Boosters amplify the benefits of the original vaccines and target new variants such as the Omicron currently surging. Many vulnerable populations are not aware of new boosters or have trouble accessing pharmacies and health centers where they are distributed. Helping members of vulnerable communities access these vaccines is crucial toward narrowing the health disparities in rural populations.
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