Health News Roundup

Discharging COVID-19 patients when they have nowhere to go, and more in this week’s roundup

Pandemic exposes stark health disparities generations in the making
Kate Farrish, Connecticut Health Investigative Team, April 16
Weeks into the pandemic’s spread in Connecticut, state Department of Public Health data show that African American and Hispanic residents are testing positive for COVID-19 in numbers greater than their share of the population and that black people are dying at disproportionately higher rates than whites. Health equity experts say that structural racism and historic inequities mean that people of color are more likely to suffer from chronic health conditions such as asthma and diabetes, work in low-wage jobs and live in densely populated neighborhoods. The pattern, in place for generations, has laid the groundwork for the susceptibility to COVID-19 among people of color.
Related: COVID-19 in context: Why we need to understand the roots of health disparities

As COVID-19 surges among homeless, doctors face difficult choices
Allison Bond, STAT, April 11
As a doctor at San Francisco’s safety net hospital, Katie Brooks takes pride in caring for the city’s most vulnerable patients. But as the COVID-19 pandemic puts further stress on city resources already stretched to the limit, Brooks says it’s harder than ever to help those who are homeless. The pandemic has worsened San Francisco’s homelessness crisis; shelters stopped admitting new people over well-founded concerns about the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak among residents.

Black Americans are being hammered by a double pandemic
John Blake, CNN, April 13
When AIDS first appeared in the 1980s it started off as a strange-sounding disease that only other folks were getting. But then it hit black people with a sudden ferocity. Many of the victims died alone, separated from family. Hospital workers were bewildered. The virus was unstoppable. We are now seeing a similar pattern as the coronavirus ravages African American communities in Chicago, New York, Detroit, New Orleans and other places. For blacks, already more likely to die from HIV/AIDS than any other group in America, it’s a double pandemic — two lethal and incurable viruses hitting at once.

The high price of keeping a city moving
Greg Jaffe, Annie Gowen, The Washington Post, April 13
Michigan has among the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in the country. Transit workers say they’re unfairly put at risk. Eric Colts, a city bus driver, glanced down at the disinfectant spray bottle at his side as he guided his bus through the dark, quiet city. Before the pandemic, he had loved his job, which now felt like being “locked in a 40-foot-long coronavirus incubator.” Only a few hours earlier, his best friend and fellow bus driver, Jason Hargrove, had died of COVID-19. As Colts drove the graveyard shift, he imagined his friend’s last thoughts and breaths alone in the hospital.

Fearing deportation, many immigrants at higher risk of COVID-19 are afraid to seek testing or care 
Usha Lee McFarling, STAT, April 15
As in many communities of color hard-hit by COVID-19, immigrants here are at higher risk for exposure to the virus because many cannot work from home, cannot afford not to work, and often have jobs that require interacting with large numbers of other people. They are cleaning hospitals and essential businesses, working in restaurants and grocery stores, and making deliveries. Worsening matters is the federal government’s new public charge immigration rule that went into effect in late February. The rule, which tightly limits noncitizens’ use of government programs, has left many immigrants increasingly afraid to seek any public services, including medical care, because they fear doing so could lead to deportation or prevent them from receiving permanent residency in the future.