As the coronavirus pandemic spreads uncontrolled in much of the United States, a new study finds that almost half of low-income areas are gravely unprepared to treat severe cases of COVID-19, hinting at higher death rates to come.
Forty-nine percent of the countrys lowest-income communities—with median incomes of $35,000 or less—have zero intensive care unit beds in their area hospitals. Looking only at rural areas, the picture is even worse: 55 percent had no ICU beds. This is in stark contrast to the highest-income communities, defined by a median income of $90,000 and above. Of those, only 3 percent overall lack access to ICU beds. The study, published by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, appeared this week in the journal Health Affairs.
The findings further heighten concern over how the pandemic is exacerbating gaping socioeconomic disparities in the US. Low-income communities are already more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 due to unavoidable job-related exposure, reliance on mass transit, higher population densities, and less ability to quarantine upon potential exposure, the authors note.
At the same time, these communities are also at higher risk of severe disease, which often requires ICU treatment. Low-income communities generally have higher rates of chronic conditions, boosting the chances of severe disease. They also have less access to testing.
The combination of these factors and the lower access to intensive care could easily result in higher death rates in these communities, the researchers warn.
The point is particularly concerning as spread of the novel coroRead More – Source