COVID-19 may lead to more maternal deaths among blacks, Latinos

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Maternal mortality—the death of a woman during pregnancy or shortly after delivery—has hit racial minorities, particularly African Americans, hard for decades. Now, experts worry that the COVID-19 pandemic is making the situation worse, according to a May 14, 2020 article in Roll Call.

Recent data have shown that COVID-19 mortality rates are substantially higher among blacks and Latinos than among whites or Asians. “What we’re witnessing during this time of pandemic is not the first time we have seen communities of color disproportionately affected by a crisis,” said Michelle Williams, dean of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, during a May 7 panel discussion at the House of Representatives’ Committee on Homeland Security. “Here we are with COVID-19 and we are still seeing a disproportionate burden of morbidity and mortality on black and brown communities.”

Obstetrician-gynecologist Neel Shah, a research associate in the Department of Health Policy and Management, spoke to Roll Call about the burden on women of color—either pregnant women or new mothers—who have been encouraged to isolate at home for safety. “Isolating everyone takes all of the existing inequities in society and it throws them into a pressure cooker,” he said. “We’re seeing the impact on pregnant people prenatally, as they’re in labor, and as they’re at home caring for their infants without very much support.”

Read the Roll Call article: COVID-19 amplifies racial disparities in maternal health