The Uneven Impact of COVID-19

The novel coronavirus pandemic has shined a light on longstanding inequities in health care, housing, income, and much more. Learn who has felt the most impact from the pandemic and why, as well as what you can do to help reduce stress related to these inequities.

Man wearing a mask while driving a bus

The COVID-19 pandemic affects everyone, but not equally.

The current crisis is shining a bright light on longstanding inequities in health care, housing, income, the justice system, access to nutritious food and other aspects of society. Those most affected by health and socioeconomic disparities, including Black, Indigenous and Hispanic people, account for a disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases.

They are also at greater risk for serious illness and death due to the disease, according to experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health and the Kaiser Family Foundation, among others.

The CDC points to these factors to help explain COVID-19’s heavy burden on minority and disadvantaged communities:

  • Individuals face more hurdles to maintaining health and accessing health care. Members of minority groups are more likely to be uninsured and to live with chronic health conditions than white individuals. Minority individuals may face stigma or inequality during their interactions with the health care system.
  • People don’t always have the option to work from home. Many members of minority populations are essential workers or work in frontline industries, such as health care and agriculture, that require them to be physically present on the job. This makes social distancing difficult. Despite recommendations to stay home when sick, many workers may feel pressure to continue showing up to work if they fall ill because they don’t receive paid sick leave.    
  • Practicing social distancing and accessing basic necessities are often difficult due to where people live. Long targeted by policies that foster racial residential segregation, many individuals belonging to minority groups live in densely populated areas and/or in homes where several generations of the same family are present. This complicates social distancing and also makes it harder to properly treat mild symptoms of COVID-19 at home, as separation from healthy family members can be difficult or even impossible.

Members of minority groups are also more likely to live in neighborhoods where it’s difficult to find fresh food and areas lacking adequate health care services. This means they might have to travel farther on crowded public transportation to access these services.   

It’s important to understand that not everyone has the ability to social distance, so always wear a mask in public to protect yourself and everyone in the community.

Coping with Racism and Racial Trauma

The stress of the COVID-19 pandemic has had an adverse impact on everyone’s mental health. There are many things you can do to reduce stress during the pandemic. However, racism and the uneven impact of COVID-19 add an extra layer of stress, economic burdens and health burdens on minority groups during this difficult time. 

The University of Maryland Medical System provides some strategies for coping with these additional stressors in their two-part webinar series on racism and racial trauma. These webinars, part of the mental health conversations series Not All Wounds Are Visible, provide helpful tools for individuals and families attempting to navigate these stressors during the pandemic. 

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