Temporal variations in the severity of COVID-19 illness by race and ethnicity

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BMJ Nutr Prev Health. 2021 Mar 22;4(1):166-173. doi: 10.1136/bmjnph-2021-000253. eCollection 2021.


INTRODUCTION: Early reports highlighted racial/ethnic disparities in the severity of COVID-19 seen across the USA; the extent to which these disparities have persisted over time remains unclear. Our research objective was to understand temporal trends in racial/ethnic variation in severity of COVID-19 illness presenting over time.

METHODS: We conducted a retrospective cohort analysis using longitudinal data from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, a high-volume health system in Southern California. We studied patients admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 illness from 4 March 2020 through 5 December 2020. Our primary outcome was COVID-19 severity of illness among hospitalised patients, assessed by racial/ethnic group status. We defined overall illness severity as an ordinal outcome: hospitalisation but no intensive care unit (ICU) admission; admission to the ICU but no intubation; and intubation or death.

RESULTS: A total of 1584 patients with COVID-19 with available demographic and clinical data were included. Hispanic/Latinx compared with non-Hispanic white patients had higher odds of experiencing more severe illness among hospitalised patients (OR 2.28, 95% CI 1.62 to 3.22) and this disparity persisted over time. During the initial 2 months of the pandemic, non-Hispanic blacks were more likely to suffer severe illness than non-Hispanic whites (OR 2.02, 95% CI 1.07 to 3.78); this disparity improved by May, only to return later in the pandemic.

CONCLUSION: In our patient sample, the severity of observed COVID-19 illness declined steadily over time, but these clinical improvements were not seen evenly across racial/ethnic groups; greater illness severity continues to be experienced among Hispanic/Latinx patients.

PMID:34308124 | PMC:PMC7985979 | DOI:10.1136/bmjnph-2021-000253