DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) – As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow, new numbers in our area show some groups are being affected more than others.
An analysis from the Associated Press and the Marshall Project found “people of color make up just under 40% of the U.S. population but accounted for approximately 52% of all the “excess deaths” above normal through July.”
In the Quad Cities, there is not enough data on COVID-19 related deaths to see a statistically significant trend. However, we can see a trend in positive cases throughout both states.
In Iowa, health officials reported there are about 95,000 positive cases as of Wednesday, October 7th. The cases though, don’t directly correlate with the population of Iowa. 85% of Iowa is white, but they only make up 72% of the positive tests. On the other hand, 6% of Iowa is Hispanic and they make up 13% of the positive cases. Similarly, 4% of Iowa is Black and they make up 5% of positive cases.
“We knew right away that that people of color are being disproportionately affected. But there’s been a lapse in data so we just don’t know exactly the exact number of people who are affected and what their racial or ethnic backgrounds are,” says Janet Hill, Chief Operating Officer for Rock Island County’s Department of Public Health.
From Rock Island County’s report of nearly 3,000 positive cases, only 461 people reported their racial and ethnic background. However, those reported cases give us an insight to how COVID-19 is affecting communities of color. The Census shows Rock Island County is around 73% white, 13% Hispanic, 11% Black, and 3% Asian. Those numbers change drastically for those who tested positive and reported ethnicity and race. The 73% white shrinks to 39% of positive cases, 13% Hispanic grows to 33%, 11% Black grows to 19%, and 3% Asian grows to 9%.
“We know in Rock Island County, which has a higher percentage of people of color, our health outcomes are worse. We have a higher rate of chronic disease, and we have a lower median death rate or death age. So we know that we have some health equity issues in Rock lsland County. I’m going to be really eager to see the pandemic data because that will just give us more data to go on to you know to make messaging and to have programs to address that,” shares Hill.
Hill believes part of the issue lies in economic inequality: “if you are don’t have enough money to have adequate housing or do not have enough money for adequate food or you have to eat fast food because you can’t afford to make a healthy meal or you don’t have a place where you can make it. That is going to affect your health. I mean your most important basic needs are not being met, so therefore you’re not going to be able to worry about something that you think will just go away on its own.”
Hill says Illinois now requires demographic information online, which should help see more clearly who is affected. Illinois counties Bureau, Carroll, Hankcock, Henderson, Henry, Jo Daviess, Mercer, and Warren had either zero cases or too few to disclose due to privacy laws in Illinois. Whiteside County reported 16 positive cases for those who self-reported as white and an undisclosed amount of cases for an “Unknown” race & ethnicity. McDonough County reported 15 cases for white residents and zero for other races and ethnicities.
TV6 also reached out to counties in Iowa to see what their cases were by race, but they could only provide state-wide information.
You can hear the full interview and more on COVID-19 on our podcast Descubre with Montse.
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