The study of 1,000 patients tested at a Children’s National Covid-19 testing site in Washington D.C. found that just 7.3% of White children tested positive for coronavirus, in contrast to 30% of Black children and 46.4% of Hispanic children.
Three times as many Black children reported known exposure to the virus as White children, the researchers reported in the journal Pediatrics Wednesday.
Dr. Monika Goyal of Children’s National Hospital and colleagues used test data taken between March 21 and April 28.
The testing site was available through physician referral to people aged 22 and under, who had mild coronavirus symptoms, known exposure, high-risk status or required testing for work. Basic demographic information was collected for all patients. The team used survey data to estimate family income quartiles based on home addresses.
Of 1,000 people tested, 207 were positive for coronavirus. About 9.7% of those in the highest income quartile were infected, while 37.7% in the lowest quartile tested positive, Goyal’s team found.
Goyal, a pediatric emergency medicine specialist, described the results as “striking.” “Understanding and addressing the root causes of these disparities are needed to mitigate the spread of infection,” the team wrote.
Of the patients tested, about one third were Black and about a quarter were Hispanic. The team found that the inequities existed even after they adjusted for age, sex and median family income. Inequalities could be in part due to limited access to health care and resources, as well as bias and discrimination, but the researchers said that further research is needed to understand the cause.
Goyal and colleagues note that these findings may underestimate the inequities in coronavirus rates, because a physician referral was needed for testing, and minority and lower socioeconomic populations have less access to primary care physicians.
Because this study focused on one site, the results may not be generalizable to other geographic locations.