Family and friends place Humberto Rosales casket, who passed away from Covid-19 complications, at his gravesite at Memorial Pines Cemetery in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, on December 3, 2020.
Paul Ratje | AFP | Getty Images
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quietly revised its estimates for the disproportionately deadly toll that Covid-19 is taking on communities of color, now reflecting a much higher burden than previously acknowledged.
The nation’s top health agency revised the analysis after Sen. Elizabeth Warren called on the CDC to adjust the data by age. In a November letter to CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield, Warren said “by failing to adjust COVID-19 mortality rates by age in its public data releases, the CDC may not be providing an accurate assessment of the increased risk of death and serious illness for communities of color relative to White Americans of the same age.”
After adjusting for age, which is a standard means of measuring disease impact, Hispanic and Black Americans are shown to die at a rate of almost three times that of White Americans, the CDC now says. The agency previously said Hispanic and Black Americans were dying at a rate of about one and two times higher than Caucasians, respectively.
The updated analysis also shows that American Indians or Alaska Natives have died at a rate 2.6 times that of White Americans. The CDC previously put that figure at 1.4 times as high as White Americans.
The CDC’s previous infographic, which downplayed the disproportionate burden on communities of color, was widely shared, including in the agency’s “Framework for Equitable Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccine.” The CDC appears to have updated the analysis on Nov. 30.
Representatives for the CDC did not return CNBC’s request for comment.
Adjusting for age has such an impact on the analysis because “people of color are, on average, significantly younger than non-Hispanic white Americans,” as Warren put it in her letter to Redfield. Older people are more likely to die of Covid than younger people.
By not adjusting for age, Warren said the CDC did “not tell the full story.”
“The fact that the average age among communities of color is much younger than that of non-Hispanic white Americans makes the disproportionate number of deaths among communities of color all the more disturbing,” she wrote to Redfield. “To date, the CDC has not consistently articulated risks and has not provided full and complete information on the degree to which age and race or ethnicity interact to inflate the risk of COVID-19 mortality for communities of color.”