Most of the people who died were older than 65, and most had underlying medical conditions. But researchers obtained more complete data on race, ethnicity and underlying conditions for a subset of about 10,000 people. Most of those deaths occurred in New York City, New Jersey and Washington state, three areas hardest hit at the dawn of the pandemic.
The study found stark differences in the age at which people from different racial and ethnic groups died of covid-19. Among white people, the median age was 81, while for Hispanics it was 71, and for all nonwhite, non-Hispanic people it was 72.
Researchers found that the virus exacted a vastly steeper toll on people of color who were younger than 65. About 35 percent of Hispanic people who died of covid-19 were under 65, and about 29.5 percent of nonwhite, non-Hispanics who died were under 65. By comparison, 13.2 percent of deaths among white people were in those younger than 65.
The percentage of deaths among Hispanic and nonwhite people exceeded their representation in the U.S. population. That suggests rates of coronavirus transmission are higher among younger members of those groups than among their white counterparts and may reflect their greater presence in front-line jobs that don’t allow them to work from home. It could also suggest they are more likely to live in crowded or multigenerational homes where it is difficult to maintain social distancing.
Authorities on health disparities say racial differences arise from social and structural inequities that leave some racial and ethnic groups around the world acutely vulnerable to the most devastating effects of the coronavirus. Those differences have helped fuel protests for racial justice that have swept the nation.
Among those older than 65 who died of covid-19, nearly 41 percent were white and non-Hispanic, 21 percent were Hispanic and 32 percent were nonwhite and non-Hispanic.
The CDC report found that diabetes was common among those younger than 65 who died. Nearly half of the deaths in people under 65 were in people with diabetes. Overall, 35 percent of patients under age 65 hospitalized with covid-19 had diabetes.
The CDC recently broadened its warning about the groups at risk of developing severe complications from covid-19. Officials said even younger people who are obese or have other health conditions, such as diabetes, can become severely ill if they contract the virus.
A CDC study last month found that people with underlying medical conditions such as heart disease and diabeteswere hospitalized six times as often as otherwise healthy individuals infected with the coronavirus during the first four months of the pandemic and they died 12 times as often.
In the report released Friday, nearly 1 in 12 deaths in people under 65 took place at home or in an emergency department, suggesting they may not have had access to health care, may have delayed seeking care or may have been delayed in getting diagnosed.