The disparity cannot be entirely explained by underlying health conditions, place of residence or place of care, according to the study published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine.
Christopher Rentsch, an assistant professor in the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and colleagues examined the relationship between race and Covid-19 testing, adjusting for multiple variables, including other health conditions and behaviors, medication history, site of care and type of residence.
The team found that Black people were more likely to be tested than Hispanic and White people. Black people were tested at a rate of 60 per 1,000 people, compared to 52.7 per 1,000 among Hispanic people and 38.6 per 1,000 among White people.
Among those who received Covid-19 tests, 10.2% of Black people and 11.4% of Hispanic people tested positive, compared to just 4.4% of White people. Though Black and Hispanic people were more likely to test positive for coronavirus, the team found no differences in 30-day mortality among the different ethnic groups.
The researchers found that the disparity between Black and White people testing positive for coronavirus was higher in the Midwest than the West, while the disparity between Hispanic and White people was consistent across regions.
The team used the electronic health records of 5,834,543 people receiving care in the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Of the group, 91% were men, 74% were White, 19% were Black and 7% were Hispanic. Of 254,595 people tested for Covid-19 between February and July, 16,317 tested positive and 1,057 died.
The researchers cited a low number of women and a lack of detailed information on the social determinants of health as limitations of their research.
“Understanding what is driving these disparities is vital so that strategies can be tailored to curb the disproportionate epidemics in minority communities,” Rentsch said in a statement.
Rentsch and colleagues called for urgent strategies to prevent and contain Covid-19 outbreaks in minority communities.