Objectives: The objective of this study was to investigate potential county-level disparities among racial/ethnic and socioeconomic groups in confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths in the United States in 100,000 population.
Design: Secondary data analysis using county-level data for 3,142 US counties was conducted in 2020. Hierarchical linear regression and concentration curve analyses were performed. The combined association of COVID-19 cases and deaths was examined separately by the county population's socioeconomic characteristics. Data from the American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year estimates (2014-2018), Area Health Resources File (AHRF) 2018-2019, Kaiser Health News 2020, and 2020 COVID-19 data from Johns Hopkins University were used in this study.
Results: After adjusting for covariates, U.S. counties with a higher proportion of the Black population and a higher proportion of adults with less than a high school diploma had disproportionately higher COVID-19 cases and deaths (β > 0, p<0.05 for all relations). A higher proportion of the Hispanic population was associated with higher confirmed cases (β = 0.68, 95% CI = 0.48-0.87). The majority observed disparities in COVID-19 deaths persisted even after controlling for all-cause deaths in 2019 and COVID-19 cases per 100,000 county population. This can potentially aggravate the existing health disparities among these population groups.
Conclusions: Identification of disproportionately impacted population groups can pave the way towards narrowing the disparity gaps and guide policymakers and stakeholders in designing and implementing population group-specific interventions to mitigate the negative consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Keywords: COVID-19; health disparities; minority health; pandemics; socioeconomic factors.