Data Show Unrecognized Toll on Asian Americans From Virus

US deaths overall during pandemic have risen much more among minorities than whites
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 21, 2020 3:33 PM CDT
Data Show Racial Disparities in Deaths During Pandemic
Charlton Rhee of New York, with his parents, Man Joon Rhee and Eulja Rhee, who came to the US from South Korea. They died of COVID-19. "The Asian American community has suffered greatly during this," he said.   (Courtesy of Charlton Rhee via AP)

As many as 215,000 more people than usual died in the US during the first seven months of 2020, suggesting that the number of lives lost to the coronavirus is significantly higher than the official toll. Half the dead were people of color—Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and, to a marked degree unrecognized until now, Asian Americans. The new figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlight a stark disparity: Deaths among minorities during the crisis have risen far more than they have among whites. As of the end of July, the official death toll in the US from COVID-19 was about 150,000. It's now over 170,000, the AP reports. But health authorities have known that some coronavirus deaths, especially early on, were attributed to other causes, and that the crisis may have led to the loss of other lives if people were afraid to visit hospitals.

A count of deaths from all causes in the seven-month period yields what experts say is a fuller—and more alarming—picture of the disaster. People of color make up nearly 40% of the US population but accounted for approximately 52% of all the “excess deaths" above normal through July, according to an analysis by the AP and the Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization. "The toll of the pandemic shows just how pervasive structural racism is," said Olugbenga Ajilore of the Center for American Progress. With this new data, Asian Americans join Blacks and Hispanics among the hardest-hit communities, with deaths in each group up at least 30% this year compared with the average over the last five years. Deaths among Native Americans rose more than 20%, though that is probably a severe undercount. Deaths among whites were up 9%.

(More coronavirus stories.)

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