The coronavirus and minority youths (not a parody)

The coronavirus and minority youths (not a parody)

The Washington Post reports on statistics released today that show “the coronavirus is killing Hispanic, Black and American Indian children at much higher numbers than their White peers.” According to the stats, more than 75 percent of children killed by the virus are Hispanic, Black and American Indian children. Yet, these groups represent only 41 percent of the U.S. population.


The most significant finding here, though — the only truly significant one, really — is the exceedingly low number of deaths in the U.S. among people under the age of 21. From February to July, apparently there were only 121 such deaths attributed to the coronavirus.


That’s a finding one could build an important article around. But the Post’s William Wan decided to build his article around the racial angle. To the surprise of no one.


Doing the math, it seems that 81 of the 121 people under age 21 who died due to the coronavirus were Hispanic, Black, or America Indian. If the virus had been PC enough to adhere to race-based quotas, the number of deaths among children in these groups would have been around 50. So the “surplus” is approximately 31 minority youths under the age of 21. In a population of maybe 100 million within that age category.


The Post’s write-up would be amusing if it were appropriate to find humor in a deadly pandemic. For example, there is this passage:



CDC officials conclude that what’s needed is for health departments, medical providers and communities to “mobilize to remove systemic barriers that contribute to health disparities.”



Yes, let’s mobilize and reboot our society to avoid 31 “surplus” deaths.


What causes this small surplus? According to the Post:



The CDC report pointed to underlying social disparities that minority children are more likely to experience than their White peers: crowded living conditions, food and housing insecurity, parents who are essential workers and cannot work from home, wealth and education gaps and difficulty accessing health care because of a lack of family resources including insurance, child care, transportation or sick leave.



Might comparatively reckless behavior by parents have something to do with the disparities? If so, the CDC isn’t saying.


The Post says that one key factor might be underlying health disparities among minority children and young adults. About 75 percent of those who died had at least one underlying condition, and the most frequent were asthma and obesity — two conditions that disproportionately occur in minority youths.


What about genetics? The CDC apparently isn’t citing it as a possible explanation, either. However, John Williams, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, says the racial gap in fatalities suggests genetic or biologic factors could be at play. He notes that some diseases have been shown to affect certain races more severely than others.


For example, before a vaccine was developed, pneumococcal meningitis disproportionately affected Black children even after accounting for social determinants. Similarly, Haemophilus influenzae type b (also known as Hib) was known disproportionately to affect Native Americans.


I don’t think we know whether or to what degree genetics and underlying health conditions like obesity are playing a role in the racial disparity at issue. Maybe we should find out before we “mobilize” in the hope of saving up to 31 young lives during a period of half a year.