By Louisa Moller

BOSTON (CBS) – A new study by researchers at the MIT Sloan School of Management finds that race may be just as important in determining if someone will die from the coronavirus as age and preexisting conditions.

The average county level death rate from Covid-19 in the United States is 12 per 100,000 people. That rate doubles every 10 percentage point increase in a county’s black population, the study found.

That correlation is not due to the usual suspects, study author, economist Chris Knittel found. “We controlled for that share of the population that has health insurance, diabetes, smoking, obesity. So, it’s got to be something that’s not that. It could be something like the quality of the insurance or the quality of the health care system,” Knittel said.

Dr. Georges Benjamin, the Executive Director of the American Public Health Association, says there are systematic issues at play. Early on in the pandemic, Georges says coronavirus testing facilities were not placed near communities of color.

“Everybody was championing those drive-thru testing facilities. Well, if you didn’t have a car you couldn’t drive through. And in many cases those facilities were placed, not in the hood,” Benjamin said.

More black people also use Medicaid for insurance.

“Remember when we were telling people if you had symptoms, call your doctor. Well, if you didn’t have a doctor, who did you call?” Benjamin said.

Now, the conversations on health and race are converging.

“I think we need to go way upstream and we need to start dealing with education and housing and income inequality. Just the things that we know ultimately result in people having a lifestyle that is not equivalent to everyone else,” Benjamin said.

Louisa Moller

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