COVID-19 hospitalization data shows racial, ethnic disparities

State will present interactive dashboard showing data on hospitalizations by race and ethnicity

The novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Rocky Mountain Labs)

Besides having disproportionately higher rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths, people of color have also been hospitalized more frequently than their white counterparts, new data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment shows.

While comprising 4.6% of Colorado’s population in 2019, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, Black people made up 10% of the total number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations from March 1 through Aug. 15.

Hispanic people made up 38% of hospitalizations and just 22% of the state’s population.

In a statement, CDPHE announced it would update its website Aug. 21 at 4 p.m. with an interactive data dashboard showing more detailed data on hospitalizations by race and ethnicity.

 

“This hospitalization data is another example of how historical inequities negatively impact health outcomes,” Jill Hunsaker Ryan, the executive director of CDPHE, said in the statement. “That fact is especially apparent during emergencies like the pandemic. CDPHE, the state of Colorado, and our local partners are dedicated to eradicating these longstanding inequities.”

The statement also noted that both Hispanic and Black populations have faced greater disparities in hospitalizations at different times throughout the course of the pandemic.

“In late March, more than 14% of hospitalized patients were Black; by late July, this decreased to fewer than 4% of hospitalized patients and has hovered between 6% and 8% in August,” the statement said.

Black and Latino people suffer from asthma, diabetes and heart disease at higher rates than the general population, according to The Colorado Trust, making them more likely suffer severe symptoms from COVID-19.

The Colorado Trust, a foundation promoting health equity, and other advocates pushed early in the pandemic for health officials to release demographic data for COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations.

In an April 21 executive order, Gov. Jared Polis directed hospitals to begin submitting demographic data on COVID-19 patients to the state. The Aug. 21 statement, however, said just 55% of hospitals are submitting the data, though collectively they represent 91% of COVID-19 hospitalizations.

“We have contacted every hospital in the state to begin reporting patient level data. We prioritized helping large systems comply first so that we could capture a large percent of patients as quickly as possible,” a spokesperson for the Colorado Emergency Operations Center said in an email, when asked to explain why some hospitals weren’t reporting data. “We are onboarding smaller regional hospitals and enhancing data quality from those hospitals which are already reporting.”

CDPHE has already been tracking COVID-19 cases and deaths by race and ethnicity. The data through Aug. 19 shows Black people comprise 4.8% of cases and 6.62% of deaths, Hispanic people comprise 38% of cases and 23% of deaths, and white, non-Hispanic people make up 37% of cases and 63% of deaths. Asian people — who represent 3.5% of Colorado’s population, according to Census Bureau estimates — make up 2.1% of cases and 3.2% of deaths.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.