COVID and who tests positive at the highest rates in Massachusetts? A look at race, gender and age


Although more than 64% of Massachusetts’ population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the pandemic continues to pose threats as the state reported 9,409 new cases for the week starting Sunday, August 22.

In the last seven-day reporting period, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported 3,704 new cases among those vaccinated, or “breakthrough” cases.

But the number of cases does not tell the whole story.

While vaccinated people contribute to the number of cases, the number of cases is still dominated by unvaccinated people. In addition, people who are fully vaccinated have an unusually lower risk of being hospitalized or dying. About 75% of COVID-related hospitalizations in the past week are unvaccinated people.

The rate at which people test positive is also an important metric for examining the impact of COVID on the population. If in a population of 1000 people there are 50 members of group A, 200 members of group B, 250 members of group C and 500 members of group D. Then if 25 members of group A are positive, it can only 2.5% of the population, but it is half of the population of group A.

This shows that COVID is having a disproportionate effect on this group.

There is demographic information that we have known for some time. For example, that the number of cases is higher among black and Latino residents of Massachusetts and that the elderly are more likely to have more severe cases of COVID.

Dr. Mark Keroack, CEO of Baystate Health, told MassLive why.

“At the start of the pandemic, it was largely a disease of very old people. This was causing epidemics in nursing homes and centers for the elderly, etc. And because whites tend to live longer than communities of color, it was mostly a disease of whites at first, but when we started looking at the age stratum, looking at people in the group 30 to 40 or group 40 to 50, or group 50 to 60, a clear increase in risk was linked to our black and brown communities, ”Keroack said.

However, the higher number of cases in people of color is not due to genetics, Keroack said, “but rather the burden of disease, the amount of diabetes or high blood pressure, obesity. , at increased risk.And the increased risk of catching the disease was two to three times in communities of color, often because they did not have the opportunity to take a day off when they were sick or could not work remotely. And once they contracted the infection, because of these co-morbidities, they were more likely to die. “

The state also verifies this, providing a breakdown of the number of cases categorized into different demographic groups, including “age,” “Hispanic race and ethnicity,” and “gender,” as shown in the graph. below.

The 20-29 and 30-39 age group is the largest age group testing positive and the “Hispanic” group makes up the largest number of cases based on race.

COVID-19 Response Report

The graph does not include the percentage of cases relative to the population of the demographic group. In order to find the health disparities caused by COVID, MassLive broke down case and death reports to find which demographic groups are testing positive for COVID at the highest rate in terms of race, sex and age.

To determine the rate at which each demographic group tests positive for COVID, MassLive extracted data from the Massachusetts Department of Health COVID-19 raw data reports released on August 4, August 11, August 18, August 25, and Sept. 1 and analyzed it over time. In each section, you will find a graph below that includes the most recent data reported on September 1. For each of the weeks, MassLive added up the number of cases reported in each category to determine a total, then divided the number of cases reported by each demographic group by the total to arrive at a percentage. This percentage represents the rate at which each group tested positive. The same process was used for the “percentage of deaths” column. The data provided by the state included a population breakdown by demographics that MassLive used to compare to the rate at which the group tested positive for COVID.

It is important to note that demographic reports may not be fully representative of how individuals identify themselves personally. Additionally, Massachusetts began reporting demographics in June 2020, meaning not all demographics were reported in the early months of the pandemic. Some people may have chosen not to disclose their information.

Racial demographics reported on September 1 were collected between August 15 and August 28 and divided into eight groups:

  • Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic
  • American Indian / Alaska Native, non-Hispanic
  • White, non-Hispanic
  • Black or African American, non-Hispanic
  • Hispanic
  • Asian, non-Hispanic
  • Other race, non-Hispanic
  • Unknown, missing or refused.

Among these racial groups, the “Hispanic” group represents 21.28% of cases while it represents 12.34% of the population. The “Black or African American, non-Hispanic” group reported 6.07% of cases and 6.55% of deaths and represents 7.31% of the population.

The “white, non-Hispanic” group was listed as 71.16% of the population but only accounts for 37.8% of cases. However, the “white, non-Hispanic” population reported up to 72.75% of deaths.

It should also be noted that the “Asian, non-Hispanic” group reported a number of cases well below the size of its population, accounting for 2.83% of cases, despite making up 7.08% of the population.

About 21.93% of the cases were listed in the ‘unknown’ category, which is likely due to the lack of reporting since the start of the pandemic as well as historical misrepresentation by the racial demographic categories chosen by the state. .

Vaccination rates play a role in the impact of COVID on people of color, according to Keroack, who also said that Hampden County, where Baystate is located, currently has the lowest vaccination rates in Massachusetts.

“We know that in communities of color vaccination rates are low and we have a number of ethnic enclaves of individuals who have religious concerns,” Keroack said. “And I think we’re a more politically conservative riding than Greater Boston, so you add all of these things together and I think it’s no surprise that we ended up on the low end.”

Keroack said those lower numbers were despite aggressive outreach efforts.

“We had billboards, social media, a TV with an African American infectious disease doctor, a Latin American infectious disease doctor, a pregnant woman, an infectious disease doctor. We’ve tried to cover the waterfront in terms of messaging and outreach to religious leaders, community leaders and we’re still struggling with that. It’s hard, ”he said.

A full list of data for the past two weeks reported on September 1 can be viewed below.

Racial demographics of COVID cases

Racial Demographics of Massachusetts COVID Cases.

Demographic age:

The state has divided the age into 11 categories: under 5, 5-9, 10-14, 15-19, 20-19, 30-39, 40-19, 50-59, 60-69, 70 -79 and 80+.

As shown in the graph below, the 20-29 age group reported the highest number of cases, totaling 21.06%, despite making up 14.7% of the population. The 30-39 age group also has a high rate, totaling 17.74% of cases while it represents 13.1% of the population. Death rates, however, are very low among these groups, only two deaths have been reported among the 20-29 age group and only one death in the 30-39 age group.

On the other hand, the 60-69 age group accounted for 19.78% of deaths while it represented 12.1% of the population. In addition, the 70-79 age group accounts for 29.67% of deaths despite 7.2% of the population. In particular, the 80 and over age group reported 39.56% of deaths while it accounted for 4.2% of pollution. The 80 and over age group has the fewest cases of all others, just 2.39% of cases, but continued to report the highest deaths in the state, reaching 45% of deaths in the August 18 report.

Cases in adolescents, from the under 5 age group to the 15-19 age group reported 4,163 cases this week, or 22.54% of all cases reported on August 25. Comparatively, 1,956 cases were reported on August 4, which means the number of cases is steadily increasing. None of these groups have reported deaths, however.

A full breakdown of demographics by age can be seen below.

Who tests positive at the highest rates in Massachusetts?  COVID demographic breakdown by race, sex, age

Racial demographics graph

Gender demographics:

The DPH has classified gender into four groups: “female”, “male”, “transgender” and “unknown sex”.

In the five weeks analyzed by MassLive, the “men” group consistently had more deaths than the “women” group, while the “women” group consistently reported slightly more cases.

For example, in the Aug. 11 report, when the “male” group reported two-thirds of the deaths, while making up about half of the population, according to the state.

In the most recent report from September 1, the distribution of cases was reported roughly between the “male” group, reporting 46.96% of the cases, and the “female” group, reporting 51.86% of the cases.

But the “men” group reported 53.85% of the deaths, or 7.7% more cases than the “women”.

It’s important to note once again that gender demographics don’t always match how people identify themselves personally.

The breakdown of demographics by gender, which was taken August 15-28, can be seen below. The “transgender” category reported fewer than five cases, which MassLive rounded to 5 for research purposes.

Who tests positive at the highest rates in Massachusetts?  COVID demographic breakdown by race, sex, age

Demographics chart by gender

Keroack said Baystate is the largest provider of care for underserved communities in the region and has therefore taken steps to address health disparities.

For example, he appointed vaccination clinics located in target areas, making home visits to provide masks, disinfectants, partitions, air mattresses, information and more. The doctor also said the hospital was working with various public health authorities, including Helen Caulton-Harris in Springfield, to reach out to homeless populations.

Additionally, Keroack said Baystate is working intensely to develop culturally sensitive information for people whose first language is not English.

“This is a large-scale public health approach that tries to take into account the added burden on some of these vulnerable communities, but also to spread messages and awareness in a sensitive way. “

As the pandemic continues, MassLive continues to monitor COVID-19 data on infections, deaths and breakthrough cases.

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