As overall COVID-19 hospital numbers shrink, share of Black, Latino patients climbs to near-pandemic highs

Coronavirus

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The percentages of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the state who are Black and Latino remains near pandemic highs, a CBS17.com data analysis found.

The overall daily hospitalization totals have plummeted over the past few months to their lowest levels in more than a year.

But of those who are being admitted to hospitals, a higher share of them come from those two demographic groups.

“The people of color communities are still very much represented,” said Dr. Pia MacDonald, an epidemiologist at RTI International.

CBS17.com calculated the seven-day average number of new hospital admissions from October through early June by race and ethnicity.

This chart shows the seven-day average share of Black patients who are admitted each day to hospitals in North Carolina because of COVID-19. (Source: CBS17.com graphic.)

The analysis found Black people accounted for 30 percent of new daily hospital admissions from May 29-June 4 — the most recent numbers posted by DHHS. That’s just shy of the pandemic highs of 35 percent earlier last month.

This chart shows the seven-day average daily share of Latino patients who are admitted each day to hospitals in North Carolina because of COVID-19. (Source: CBS17.com graphic.)

And nearly 1 in 10 people hospitalized from May 24-30 were Latino, the highest it’s been since DHHS began posting those figures last fall, though that rate came down slightly during the five days that followed.

MacDonald says it’s critical to know who is being admitted because “those are the people that we really need to be targeting” with vaccination efforts.

“Latinx communities still are getting hit hard, maybe because of access and also some some concerns in the community about some of the vaccines, so we have to make better inroads there,” said Dr. David Wohl, an infectious disease specialist at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

Both groups are taking the vaccine at levels below their share of the population.

Black people account for 17 percent of vaccinations but make up 23 percent of the state’s population. Latinos have had 8 percent of vaccinations but 10 percent of the population.

“It’s an important time to calibrate where the vaccination efforts are going,” MacDonald said.

Though they remain disproportionate, those rates have climbed over the past few weeks and months and MacDonald wants to understand the reasons why they’re relatively low and push them even higher.

“It’s a very important time to reach out to the people, even if it means going door to door, to really understand the concern and hesitancy and impediments to getting vaccinated,” she said. “It may not be that they don’t want to get vaccinated. It may just be they don’t know how to access it. They don’t have the transportation to get to the vaccine site. They’re scared about getting sick and having to take time off work. 

“It could be a lot of different factors. So it’s very important to understand, again, who’s not getting vaccinated, who’s landing in the hospital and double down on efforts to make sure they have the information and the resources they need to get vaccinated.”

Overall, the picture in our state’s hospitals is much better, with Wohl saying “the COVID wards have generally shrunk.”

The state reported 554 COVID patients in hospitals across the state today — a drop of 42 percent over the past month and less than half of what it was on March 9.

“What we are seeing is a little bit less of an overwhelming situation that we had before,” said Dr. Tony Moody, a professor in the department of pediatrics at the Duke University School of Medicine.


CBS 17’s Joedy McCreary has been tracking COVID-19 figures since March 2020, compiling data from federal, state and local sources to deliver a clear snapshot of what the coronavirus situation looks like now and what it could look like in the future.


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