COVID-19 has taken an outsize toll on Black and Hispanic Americans.

And those disparities extend to the medical workers who have intubated them, cleaned their bedsheets and held their hands in their final days, a KHN/Guardian investigation has found. People of color account for about 65 percent of fatalities in cases in which there is race and ethnicity data.

One recent study found health care workers of color were more than twice as likely as their white counterparts to test positive for the virus.

They were more likely to treat patients diagnosed with covid, more likely to work in nursing homes — major coronavirus hotbeds — and more likely to cite an inadequate supply of personal protective equipment, according to the report.

In a national sample of 100 cases gathered by KHN/The Guardian in which a health care worker expressed concerns over insufficient PPE before they died of covid, three-quarters of the victims were identified as Black, Hispanic, Native American or Asian.

“Black health care workers are more likely to want to go into public-sector care where they know that they will disproportionately treat communities of color,” said Adia Wingfield, a sociologist at Washington University in St. Louis who has studied racial inequality in the health care industry.

“But they also are more likely to be attuned to the particular needs and challenges that communities of color may have,” she said.

Not only do many Black health care staffers work in lower-resourced health centers, she said, they are also more likely to suffer from many of the same co-morbidities found in the general Black population, a legacy of systemic inequities.

And they may fall victim to lower standards of care. Dr. Susan Moore, a 52-year-old Black pediatrician in Indiana, was hospitalized with covid in November and, according to a video posted to her Facebook account, had to ask repeatedly for tests, remdesivir and pain medication.

She said her white doctor dismissed her complaints of pain and she was discharged, only to be admitted to another hospital 12 hours later.

Numerous studies have found Black Americans often receive worse medical care than their white counterparts: In March, a Boston biotech firm published an analysis showing physicians were less likely to refer symptomatic Black patients for coronavirus tests than symptomatic whites. Doctors are also less likely to prescribe painkillers to Black patients.

“If I was white, I wouldn’t have to go through that,” Moore said in the video posted from her hospital bed. “This is how Black people get killed, when you send them home, and they don’t know how to fight for themselves.”

She died on Dec. 20 of COVID-19 complications, her son Henry Muhammad told news outlets.

The inequities in covid infections and deaths risk fueling distrust in the vaccine. In a recent Pew study, around 42 percent of Black respondents said they would “definitely or probably” get the vaccine compared with 60 percent of the general population.

Dr. Susan Moore said that despite telling her doctor that she was in pain she received medication after tests proved what she had been saying since she arrived at the hospital. (Photo: NNPA Newswire)

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