A retrospective study led by Dr. Victoria Silver at Louisiana State University, Health Sciences Center in New Orleans analyzed how race and asthma influence COVID-19 outcomes. The study began around the time that Louisiana was deemed to have the fastest-growing COVID-19 outbreak worldwide. Dr. Silver’s work recognizes the disproportionate number of COVID-19-related deaths of Black people that have occurred since in Louisiana and throughout the country.
The study was composed of 249 female and male participants, with a median age of 59 years old. Approximately 87% of the participants were Black, and 86% were 65 years old or older or had one or more additional medical conditions. The participants were all patients of an urban safety-net hospital and tertiary care academic medical center in New Orleans and had reactive SARS-CoV-2 testing in March 2020.
The study ultimately found that Black patients had a significantly longer duration of COVID-19 symptoms at presentation (p < 0.005). This finding is suggestive of increased SARS-CoV-2 exposure and potential barriers in accessing primary care, consistent with longstanding structural violence and institutional racism. Black patients were also found to be significantly more likely to have asthma (p = 0.008).
Worse outcomes were associated not with race but with patient age and initial oxygen requirement. Black patients were not found to be sicker on presentation than non-Black patients. However, Black patients were found to be significantly overrepresented in COVID-19-related hospitalizations relative to the overall population, making up 87% of cases. The hospital’s typical census of Black patients prior to the COVID-19 pandemic was 55%.
The study concluded that Black patients were significantly more likely to have asthma, longer duration of COVID-19 symptoms at presentation, and disproportionate representation in COVID-19-related hospitalizations. A call to action is made advocating for the development of COVID-19 prevention programs for Black communities. Such an intervention might help to reduce asthma and COVID-19-related racial inequities and hospitalizations, protecting and saving more Black lives .