Analysis: MA communities already facing challenges hit hardest by COVID-19

In Massachusetts, the overall mortality rate during the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic was highest in cities, towns, and ZIP codes with widespread economic segregation and heavy concentrations of poverty, people of color, and crowded housing, according to a new analysis from researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Drawing on data obtained by the Boston Globe, the analysis provides a comprehensive look at how COVID-19 has disproportionately affected certain communities—places like Brockton, Chelsea, Revere, Springfield, and the north side of Lawrence—more than others. By looking at the home addresses of more than 20,000 people who died of all causes in the first 15 weeks of 2020, researchers found that the death rate was nearly 40% higher in cities and towns with the highest concentrations of people of color, compared to those with the least; nearly 14% higher in cities and towns with the most crowded housing; and 9% higher in cities and towns with the most poverty.

While other studies have looked at the raw number of excess deaths to estimate a possible undercount of COVID-19 victims, the new study takes it a step further by looking at death rates by socioeconomic level, race, and ethnicity.

“It’s about understanding which communities have been most burdened and are going to be in need of all kinds of social support and economic support and resources,” said Nancy Krieger, professor of social epidemiology, who spearheaded the analysis, in a May 9, 2020 Boston Globe article.

Co-author Jarvis Chen, research scientist in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, said, “We already live in a very unequal society and this [pandemic] is making those inequalities even worse. These data are showing … the need to take immediate action to try to mitigate some of those harms.”

Project director Pamela Waterman was also a co-author of the analysis.

Read the Boston Globe article: A new analysis: Coronavirus death rate surged in Massachusetts locations that already faced challenges

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COVID-19 pandemic highlights longstanding health inequities in U.S. (Harvard Chan School news)