(CHICAGO) – New research led by medical experts from Cook County Health confirms previous reports that Hispanic patients experience a disproportionate burden of COVID-19.

The study results, published in the January issue of PLOS ONE, indicate that in comparison to hospitalizations during the 2019-2020 influenza season, Hispanics were 40% more likely to be hospitalized due to a COVID-19 infection in comparison to non-Hispanic Blacks and whites.

Halfway through the duration of the two-month study, 75% of all hospitalized COVID-19 infected patients at Cook County Health were Hispanic.

The retrospective study looked at routinely collected data and found several common threads among Hispanic patients who had to be hospitalized due to COVID-19. They were more likely to reside in areas with higher proportions of residents who:

  • Were also Hispanic
  • Had no high school diploma
  • Were not U.S. citizens
  • Had limited English speaking ability
  • Were employed in manufacturing or construction
  • Lived in multigenerational or overcrowded residences

“The rapid and disproportionate increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations among Hispanics after the shelter-in-place mandate indicates that public health strategies were inadequate in protecting this population,” said Dr. Bill Trick, study principal investigator and associate chair of research at Cook County Health. “These individuals were unable to shelter in place because their employment (or employers) did not allow for remote work.”

A large majority of the Hispanic patient population impacted by COVID-19 also serve as essential frontline workers.

The cohort of patients in the study were hospitalized for influenza during the 2019-2020 influenza season or for COVID-19 during the early phases of the pandemic, through May 11, 2020.

The proportion of patients admitted to the hospital who were Hispanic was significantly higher for treatment of COVID-19 infection compared to influenza, (59% vs 42%; P<0.001).

The relative increase in COVID-19 infection among Hispanics became apparent by the third week after the initial COVID-19 hospitalization and continued to increase until reaching a plateau of over 50% of all patient admissions during week five.

Dr. Trick and his team of researchers also found that Hispanic patients hospitalized with COVID-19 were more likely to be male (65.5%) or obese (55.7%).

Hispanic COVID-19 infected patients were also much more likely to require admission to an ICU (28.1%) and had an increased risk of needing mechanical ventilation (14%) or dying (13.3%) than those infected with influenza.

“We need multi-faceted workplace protections, particularly in industries where workers congregate without opportunities for remote work,” Trick said. “Solutions might include paid sick leave, environmental modifications that allow social distancing during work and breaks, and provision of personal protective equipment. We also need to increase outreach and public health education to Hispanic populations on social distancing, masking and vaccination.”

Caitlin Polochak, Communications Manager