Georgia coronavirus rates higher in black communities — Morehouse School of Medicine study

In an April 2020 file photo, Atlanta police officer Brittany Searight, Sgt. Sabrina Smith and Sgt. Dominique Simmons distribute masks at Hurt Park in downtown Atlanta. JOHN SPINK/SPINK@AJC.COM
In an April 2020 file photo, Atlanta police officer Brittany Searight, Sgt. Sabrina Smith and Sgt. Dominique Simmons distribute masks at Hurt Park in downtown Atlanta. JOHN SPINK/SPINK@AJC.COM

Correlation remains after adjusting for poverty, insurance, density

Coronavirus cases are higher in Georgia counties where more African Americans live, even after stripping out factors like poverty, health insurance and population density, according to the Morehouse School of Medicine.

Using data from the Georgia Department of Public Health, researchers from MSM’s National Center for Primary Care looked at counties with at least 10 cases of COVID-19 to study how race factored in the disease’s deadly crawl through Georgia.

An increase of 1% in the black population of a county was associated with a 2.5% increase in the county’s confirmed cases of COVID-19. After adjusting for poverty, health insurance and population density, the confirmed case increase was nearly identical at 2.3%.

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“We found the percent of black residents in the county had a statistically significant relationship with COVID-19 confirmed case rates, but percent uninsured, percent living in poverty and population density did not have this relationship,” said Anne Gaglioti, the associate director for research at the National Center for Primary Care at MSM.

One of only three medical schools at historically black colleges and universities in the country, the MSM study is the latest to find that African Americans across the country and in Georgia are being disproportionately affected by the disease. Data remains incomplete, partly because public health authorities haven't reported the race or ethnicity of all people who tested positive for COVID-19.

According to another recent study by epidemiologists and amfAR, an AIDS research nonprofit, counties with a greater proportion of black residents accounted for only 22% percent of American counties 52% of COVID-19 cases and 58% of COVID-19 deaths.

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Other data show a narrower divergence. The MSM study noted data showing 35% of positive cases in Georgia were among African Americans and the cases with unknown race had dropped to around 10% as of April 27th. Georgia’s population overall is about 32.4% African American.

“These findings demonstrate the importance of collecting and reporting COVID-19 positive cases and deaths by race and ethnicity,” said Dominic Mack, a professor of family medicine at MSM. “Recognizing that this crisis is hitting communities differently, this study should guide resource allocation for screening, testing and treatment in Georgia.”

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