Coronavirus: Testing inequities persist along racial lines

A study of COVID-19 testing in the St. Louis area shows the inequities still present in a critical part of fighting the pandemic.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep the country, inequities in testing still affect racial minorities disproportionately.

A study looking at seven counties in the St. Louis, Mo., published on JAMA Network, found that between March 14 and Aug. 10 the communities responsible for half of the COVID-19 hospitalizations only received the 22.9 percent of the testing performed in the area. This more highly impacted area is made of 23 different zip codes, 17 of which are more than 50 percent Black.

Meanwhile, 52.9 percent of the tests were performed in the 86 counties which accounted for only 25 percent of hospitalizations. None of these counties are more than 50 percent Black, the study says.

“The underlying reasons for undertesting in particular communities are likely several fold and include existing disparities in the health care infrastructure, access to health care, and mistrust of historically discriminatory health care system, all of which are manifestations of structural racism in our current health care system,” the authors write. “Addressing these inequities likely requires proactive public health responses, such as targeted use of high-volume, saliva-based tests and community-based testing campaigns.”

Studies like this underline the disparate cost of the COVID-19 pandemic on racial minority communities and exacerbated existing inequalities in the healthcare realm.

Issues like these will be the main topic of the next MJH COVID-19 Coalition webinar, “Color and COVID-19: The Virus’ Disproportionate Impact,” at 6 p.m. eastern time on Jan. 12.

Click here to register.