Old. Chronically ill. Black.
People who fit this description are more likely to die from COVID-19 than any other group in the country.
They are perishing quietly, out of sight, in homes and apartment buildings, senior housing complexes, nursing homes and hospitals, disproportionately poor, frail and ill, after enduring a lifetime of racism and its attendant adverse health effects.
Yet, older Black Americans have received little attention as protesters proclaim that Black Lives Matter and experts churn out studies about the coronavirus.
“People are talking about the race disparity in COVID deaths, they’re talking about the age disparity, but they’re not talking about how race and age disparities interact: They’re not talking about older Black adults,” said Robert Joseph Taylor, director of the Program for Research on Black Americans at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.
A KHN analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention underscores the extent of their vulnerability. It found that African Americans ages 65 to 74 died of COVID-19 five times as often as whites. In the 75-to-84 group, the death rate for Blacks was 3½ times greater. Among those 85 and older, Blacks died twice as often. In all three age groups, death rates for Hispanics were higher than for whites but lower than for Blacks.
(The gap between Blacks and whites narrows over time because advanced age, itself, becomes an increasingly important, shared risk. Altogether, 80% of COVID-19 deaths are among people 65 and older.)
Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a nonprofit news service committed to in-depth coverage of health care policy and politics. And we report on how the health care system – hospitals, doctors, nurses, insurers, governments, consumers – works.
KHN is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, Calif., that is dedicated to filling the need for trusted information on national health issues.