News Scan for Jul 09, 2020

News brief

Black people in Chicago twice as likely as whites to have COVID, study shows

In yet another study demonstrating racial disparities in the pandemic, a University of Chicago analysis has found that black people are twice as likely as whites to test positive for COVID-19.

The retrospective cohort study, published today in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society, showed that 786 of 4,413 patients tested positive for COVID-19 infection. Of those 4,413 patients, 619 (24%) were black, while 75 (7%) were white and 16 (8.7%) were Asian or Mideast Indian.

Average participant age was 46 years, but those infected with COVID-19 were 52 years old, on average, versus 45 for those who tested negative. The overall coronavirus infection rate was 10 times higher among patients 30 to 50 years old than among those 18 and younger (0.05 vs 0.005).

Overall, men were more often infected than women (20% vs 17%), although infected blacks were disproportionately female (63% vs. 51%).

Logistic regression models showed that although blacks were much more likely than others to have COVID-19 (odds ratio [OR], 3.30; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.75 to 3.97) and be hospitalized (OR, 3.77; 95% CI, 2.38 to 5.99), they were not more likely to die.

In an American Thoracic Society news release, lead study author Ayodeji Adegunsoye, MD, MS, said the results are not surprising given that underlying illnesses associated with COVID-19, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, disproportionately affect black people. "I think this really amplifies how pre-existing socioeconomic and health care disparities affect outcomes in the population," he said.

Adegunsoye also noted that black people also have a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 because they make up a larger part of the service industry than whites and are therefore considered essential workers.

He called for free, widely available COVID-19 screening, increased funding for community infection-prevention efforts, and campaigns to educate minorities on how to reduce their risk of developing high blood pressure and diabetes.
Jul 9 Ann Am Thorac Soc study
Jul 9 American Thoracic Society news release


Essential-worker absenteeism rose during initial months of pandemic

Today in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) researchers report on the rise of job-specific absenteeism in March and April in the United States, especially in the fields of personal care and service, healthcare support, and food production.

CDC researchers analyzed data from the Current Population Survey, a monthly national survey of approximately 54,000 households conducted by the US Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Absenteeism rates during the first 2 months of the coronavirus pandemic were compared with monthly data collected over the past 5 years.

During March and April, absenteeism was reported at 5.1% for personal care and service, including childcare workers and personal care aides, versus the 2.1% expected based on previous years. Healthcare support workers had a rate of 5.0% versus 2.4% expected, and production—including meat, poultry, and fish processing workers—had 3.7% versus 2.3% expected.

"Whereas the overall impact of COVID-19 on health-related workplace absenteeism in March and April was minor, increases in absenteeism in personal care and service, healthcare support, and production occupations, groups that contain or define essential critical infrastructure workforce categories, highlight the risks and concerns surrounding occupational transmission of SARS-CoV-2," the authors said.

Job categories that experienced absenteeism were unable to be performed from home because they require person-to-person contact. The authors explain that the move to remote telework for many Americans beginning in March likely helped reduce absenteeism overall.
Jul 9 MMWR study


Three more Ebola cases confirmed in latest DRC outbreak

Three more Ebola infections were confirmed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's (DRC's) Equateur province outbreak, raising the total to 46, the World Health Organization (WHO) African regional office said on Twitter today.

One more death was reported, raising the fatality count to 19.

The event began in early June, signifying the DRC's 11th Ebola outbreak. The transmission is occurring in the northwestern part of the country, and though some cases are occurring in remote parts of the province, some cases have been detected in Mbandaka, the provincial capital, which is located on a river and has transit links to other parts of the DRC, including Kinshasa.
Jul 9 WHO African regional office tweet

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