COVID-19 Racial Disparities Widen With Omicron

(Reuters) – New data illustrate the jumps in U.S. coronavirus infection rates caused by the Omicron variant and the heavier toll it has taken on minorities in the latest example of racial disparity in the pandemic.

Overall, for every 2,000 people in the United States, roughly one per day caught a first-time infection when the Delta variant was dominant, compared to about 8 to 10 per day in January after Omicron took over, researchers found.

Racial disparities further widened with Omicron, the researchers reported on medRxiv ahead of peer review. During the Delta period, the infection rate in Black patients was 1.3 to 1.4 times higher than for white patients. With Omicron, it jumped to 3 to 4 times higher. The Delta infection rate of 1.6 to 1.8 times higher in Hispanics versus non-Hispanics grew to 3 times higher with Omicron.

Children were also hit hard by Omicron infections. The rate in January was highest in children under age 5, at 22 a day per 2,000 in that age-group.

The findings were drawn from 733,509 Delta infections and 147,964 Omicron cases. Omicron was associated with significantly lower rates of emergency department visits, hospitalizations, intensive care unit admissions, and need for mechanical ventilation. However, emergency department visits and need for intensive care was higher among Blacks and Hispanics.

The researchers noted that the study subjects might not be representative of all U.S. patients.

SOURCE: medRxiv, online February 22, 2022.

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