COVID-19: Among patients hospitalized with coronavirus, a quarter of patients did not fit recognized high-risk categories

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With comparable outcomes, patients who were black made more than 80% of those hospitalized, disproportionate to numbers hospitalized overall

One in four patients hospitalized because of COVID-19 did not fall into any of the categories recognized as putting people at higher risk for more severe illness, according to data on 305 patients admitted to eight Georgia hospitals in March, reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week.

The data, analyzed in a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, also found that of the 297 patients for whom data on race were available, 247 — 83.2% — were black, a number disproportionate to overall admissions to the hospitals.

The study highlights both disparate impacts of the epidemic on black Americans that have been increasingly recognized if not addressed, and risks of severe COVID-19 illness among all adults that have been less recognized.

Examining data from seven Atlanta area hospitals and one hospital in southern Georgia, researchers found more than 60% of those admitted were younger than 65 years old, a finding across racial and ethnic categories. While patients older than 65 are considered at higher risk of more severe disease, age also increases the likelihood of that conditions also seen as contributing to risks are present, including cardiovascular disease, seen in more than a quarter of the patients, and in nearly half of those older than 65. Diabetes, also recognized as a condition contributing to higher risks of more severe COVID-19 was seen in nearly 40% of the hospitalized patients.

So far, 17% of the hospitalized patients have died. Of those with no recognized higher risk, 23% were admitted to intensive care and 5% died. While the great majority of patients hospitalized were black, rates of admission to intensive care and deaths were similar across races.

The study underscores the importance raising awareness of severe disease risks among all adults as well as of recognizing and addressing factors — including occupational factors — putting black Americans at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure and illness. The authors call for prioritizing prevention efforts among people and communities disproportionately impacted.


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