COVID in California: Study Finds That Pandemic Has Lowered the Life Expectancy of Black Californians

A study by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that during the COVID-19 pandemic, Black Californians and other minorities experienced a disproportionate reduction in life expectancy compared to white Californians.

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By Edward Henderson, California Black Media

If you follow social media or if when you’re out in public and count the number of masks being worn, you might conclude that the COVID-19 pandemic is over. People have resumed posting pictures of their summer vacations and family gatherings. Fourth of July celebrations and fireworks shows entertained thousands of uncovered faces across the nation.

But, neither the Center for Disease Control (CDC) or World Health Organization have declared the pandemic has run its course and statistics and death tolls across California tell a distressing story about the indelible mark the pandemic has left on all of us.

A study by collegiate researchers, including representatives from UCLA, recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that during the pandemic Black Californians and other minorities experienced a disproportionate reduction in life expectancy occurred compared to White Californians.

The JAMA study also found that for Californians living in the highest income census tracts versus the lowest, the gap in life expectancies increased from a difference before the pandemic of about 11.5 years to 14.67 years in 2020 and 15.51 years in 2021.

Between 2019 and 2021 the research shows the life expectancy for Black Californians decreased by nearly 3.8 years from 74.8 years to 71. Latinx Californians’ life expectancy fell by nearly 5.7 years from 82.5 years to 76.8 and for Asian Californians the decrease was 3 years, from 86.6 years to 83.5. White Californians life expectancy only decreased 1.9 years from 80.5 to 78.6 years.

“This disparity, much like other racial and ethnic inequities, has roots in the social determinants of health as well as structural barriers resulting from systemic racism that have helped perpetuate disparities for generations,” researchers stated in the study.

The study found that economic factors including the likelihood of Black and Latinx Californians working frontline jobs increased their exposure to the COVID-19 virus coupled with the increased need for them to attend work in person to financially survive the pandemic were possible contributors to the life expectancy decrease.

“Families of lower socioeconomic status are more vulnerable to economic instability and were less likely to access income support programs during the pandemic, raising concerns that the stresses brought on by the pandemic might have widened health gaps related to income and race and ethnicity,” the study reported.

As of July 11, only 68 % of Black Californians have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and only 25 % of Black children in California.

Government supported programs and additional funds allocated in budget for Medi-Cal coverage for undocumented immigrants are a few steps that have been taken to combat some of these disparities.

BlackandVaxxed.org is a California statewide public awareness campaign designed to give the Black community facts and insights necessary to make informed decisions about the COVID-19 vaccine. Created in partnership with the California Department of Health, the organization provides a compilation of workplace safety initiatives and vaccine related information on its website.

Information on how and where to receive Covid-19 vaccinations can be found here.

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