Google funds UNC-CH COVID-19 study focused on Hispanic community

Orange County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Google has chosen UNC-Chapel Hill and Vanderbilt University as the recipients of a $500,000 gift to study how genes change after a COVD-19 infection and how the virus makes those changes.

The study will look at blood samples collected for the past 16 years from a group of study subjects, which makes this study unique.

Up until now, most studies that look at impacts of COVID-19 have only been able to look at the effects after diagnosis and hospitalization.

“We look at, yes, they got COVID now, they definitely had it, but we also know all the years before what lead up to where they were when they first got this,” said Dr. Kari North, Professor of Epidemiology at UNC Chapel Hill.

The more than 4,000 participants are from the Cameron County Hispanic Cohort in Texas. Some of them were infected with COVID-19.

UNC Chapel Hill said that Cameron County has one of the highest rates of COVID-19 in the United States.

Officials said the use of the cohort provides valuable information researchers would not otherwise have.

“To what extent is it those social factors, to what extent is is access to care? to what extent is it predisposition to type 2 diabetes and things like that and to what extent is it molecular factors?” said Dr. North.

Read more about the study here.

Impact of COVID-19 on Hispanic/LatinX community

Minority communities like the Hispanic population have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

In North Carolina, the Hispanic community makes up 35 percent of COVID-19 cases. At the same time, they make up less than 10 percent of the state’s population.

That infection percentage may not be giving a clear picture as the state is still missing ethnicity information for more than 63,000 COVID-19 patients.

According to the state, that’s due to ethnicity/race information not being asked of when a person tests positive and in part because the U.S. Health Human Services did not require states to collect that information until June.

A closer look at the triangle shows Hispanic population make up:

  • 25 percent of cases in Wake County
  • 50 percent of cases in Durham County
  • Cumberland county lists 57 cases of COVID-19 in the Hispanic community but is missing ethnicity information for more more than 4,000 cases

Nationally, Hispanics account for 30 percent of cases and 16.8 percent of deaths. Meanwhile, the U.S. Census Bureau accounted for just 18.5 percent of the country’s population.

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