Although Blacks are still dying from COVID at a higher rate than whites, the difference is small. The CDC notes that there were 0.3 deaths per 100,000 Black people compared to 0.2 per 100,000 white people in May, and 1.3 Black deaths versus 1.2 white deaths in August.
If a person is diagnosed with COVID-19 in the United States right now, it is almost certainly caused by the Delta variant.
Delta has caused more deaths than any other time in the pandemic, according to Tammy Jackson-Moore, co-founder of the Guardians of the Glades nonprofit, an organization that is working to improve the vaccination rates in Pahokee and other predominantly Black or Hispanic cities in Palm Beach County, Fla.
The highly transmissible variant, which caused crippling surges in India and Britain this past spring and fueled case spikes in the United States this summer, is now responsible for more than 99 percent of all cases tracked in this country, according to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It’s not unexpected, because it’s more transmissible, but it is also a strong reminder that we need to have continuous vigilance,” Saskia Popescu, M.D., an epidemiologist and assistant professor at George Mason University in Virginia, tells The New York Times.
Back in June, the Delta variant caused a little more than 25 percent of COVID-19 cases, according to the CDC national genomic surveillance efforts.
Now, a particular Delta lineage is to blame for 99.4 percent among variants of concern. Other Delta lineages are responsible for much smaller percentages (0.2 percent and 0.1 percent).
The United States has also seen a rise in hospitalizations despite the
availability of vaccines, which some Americans have resisted. The Delta variant is driving the increase in hospitalizations, according to The Times.
There are very clear demographic differences in how COVID-19 has been handled and Michael Siegel, physician and researcher in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine believes the deaths come down to structural racism.
“It’s pervasive. It’s differences in economic status, housing, education level, incarceration rates, types of occupations which affects level of exposure, preexisting conditions, population density,” Siegel says.
Siegel, who has been studying racial inequity throughout the pandemic, says that even if these factors are controlled individually Blacks still have higher death rates.
Comorbidities and access to health care and transportation, which contributed to racial disparities in the beginning of COVID, have resurfaced with Delta Keisha Leanne Bentley-Edwards, a professor of medicine at Duke University School of Medicine who studies racial determinants of health says.
Blacks and Latinos are also more prone to work in service industries, which can put them more at risk.
Popescu says that COVID-19 remains a serious public health threat. She advises getting vaccinated and wearing masks.
“The biggest piece is, ‘Don’t let your guard down.’ We need continuous surveillance, genomic sequencing, access to testing, and public health interventions,” Popescu says. “We have transmission occurring with very limited exposure and that means that, for example, times without a mask, when you are out and around others, become much more of a risk.”