Inequality During a Pandemic


Robin Swanson

By Robin Swanson

Staff Reporter

COVID has been affecting people’s health, lives, and communities around the world for almost a year. But it has most affected people based on race, ethnicity, and where they live. This inequality is deeply rooted throughout the world but is especially prominent in the United States. The CDC has explained that because of these “long-standing systemic health and social inequities, many people from racial and ethnic minority groups have been put at an increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19.” The impacts of systemic broad based inequality have led to greater infectious rates of COVID in minority communities and greatly elevated deaths rates.

There are many factors that contribute to the increased risk of COVID. The first being systemic impacts of discrimination. While society promotes equal access to healthcare, it is an unfortunate reality that discrimination exists in these systems that are meant to protect people. People from some racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to be uninsured than white people. Access to healthcare can be limited for these groups because of many factors, “such as lack of transportation, child care, or ability to take time off of work; communication and language barriers; cultural differences between patients and providers; and historical and current discrimination in healthcare systems”(CDC).

This image shows the mortality rate for COVID based on race/ethnicity. From, which supplies news on national health issues.

This leads into the three final factors that increase the risk towards minority groups: education, occupation (which is correlated with income) and lastly housing. “People from some racial and ethnic minority groups are disproportionately represented in essential work settings such as healthcare facilities, farms, factories, grocery stores, and public transportation” (CDC article on inequalities during the pandemic). Because of these occupations they come in close contact with the public and other essential workers, which leads to more chances of being exposed to the virus. Finally, many people from racial and ethnic minority groups live in crowded conditions, typically for economic or cultural reasons, that make it more challenging to follow prevention strategies.

These factors plus deep rooted systemic inequality within the health community have led the minority communities in the United States to be at a higher risk of contracting and dying of COVID.  Equality on all aspects is what is required to begin to remedy these impacts, but most importantly access to quality, affordable healthcare is needed. This is needed not just to help contain this pandemic but to also fulfill the constitutional right of equality of all persons no matter race, or color.