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African Americans twice as likely as whites to die from COVID-19 in Marion County

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African American residents in Marion County are three times as likely as whites to have a confirmed case of COVID-19, 2 1/2 times as likely to be hospitalized and almost twice as likely to die.

The Marion County Public Health Department released the data April 20 after weeks of pleading from the public for the county and state to show how the novel coronavirus has been impacting African Americans.

The Indiana State Health Department released initial race data April 10, and the numbers are updated daily on the department’s COVID-19 online dashboard.

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Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the county health department, said last week during a virtual town hall co-hosted by the Recorder that African Americans made up 42% of COVID-19 deaths in Marion County, but that was the only data released at the time.

The county health department also released data about age and gender. It did not include raw numbers, only rates based on population size.

For example, 20 African Americans have died per 100,000 African American residents, a slight uptick from when Caine released initial data. That’s compared to 11 whites per 100,000 white residents.

African Americans make up 29% of the population in Marion County, and whites make up 64% of the population, according to census data.

Caine said in a statement African Americans have an increased risk of being hospitalized and dying because of the prevalence of heart disease, asthma, hypertension and other chronic conditions.

“We must understand this risk and use this information to help prevent infections,” she said.

There is also the matter of bias in the health care field — often referred to as medical racism — which Caine addressed in last week’s town hall. She suggested doctors need ongoing training to address those biases.

In Detroit, for example, an African American man died on his chair at home from complications with COVID-19 after three hospitals turned him away when he complained about breathing difficulties and requested a test.

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The data for Marion County is part of a nationwide trend showing COVID-19 is disproportionately harming African Americans.

In Marion County, African Americans are hospitalized at a rate of 106 per 100,000, compared to 43 per 100,000 for whites. The rate of confirmed cases for African Americans is 290 per 100,000, compared to 97 per 100,000 for whites.

Information about race was not available for 37% of confirmed cases and 17% of deaths included in the data. A release from the county health department said the missing data is not significant enough to reverse the disparity.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

African Americans are nearly twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than whites, according to data from the Marion County Public Health Department.

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