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Their Jobs May Put Black Americans at Greater COVID Risk

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MONDAY, Sept. 14, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Many Black Americans have jobs that expose them to the new coronavirus, which may help explain why they are more likely than whites to die of COVID-19, researchers say.

"There are a lot of theories why Blacks are dying at higher rates than other races during this pandemic," said study co-author Fares Qeadan, a biostatistician at the University of Utah.

"However, our descriptive study strongly suggests that Blacks are not dying from COVID-19 because they are genetically more susceptible, have more comorbidities, or aren't taking the necessary precautions. Instead, it's likely because they are working in jobs where they have a greater risk of coming in contact with the virus day in and day out," Qeadan said in a university news release.

Blacks account for 12% of the U.S. population but 21% of COVID-19 deaths, the researchers noted.

The study found that compared to whites, Blacks are nearly three times more likely to work in health care support jobs such as nursing assistants or orderlies. And they are nearly twice as likely to have transportation jobs such as bus drivers, movers and taxi drivers.

Blacks are also more likely to have jobs deemed essential during the pandemic: food preparation; building and grounds maintenance; police and protective services; personal care (child care, hairstylists); office and administrative support; production (assemblers, painters, machinists); social work, and community services.

When they compared these job classifications with COVID-19 deaths in 26 states and Washington, D.C., the researchers found that all of these jobs put workers at higher risk of infection and death from COVID-19.

Police and protective services, health care support, transportation, and food preparation were among the jobs most closely associated with COVID-19 deaths.

"I find it ironic that the people we depend on as essential workers to wipe down our counters and keep things clean are the most vulnerable among us," said study co-author Tiana Rogers, a program manager in the university's business school.

"We need to make sure that the people doing these jobs can continue to provide for their families without having to risk their lives," Rogers added.

The findings were published recently in a special issue of the journal World Medical & Health Policy.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on minorities and COVID-19.

SOURCE: University of Utah Health, news release, August 2020

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