What We're Reading: COVID-19 Exposure Rates in Black, Hispanic Women; Flu Cases Fall; Disparities in Testing Times

July 31, 2020

A study analyzing data from 2 Philadelphia hospitals shows pregnant black and Hispanic women are nearly 5 times more likely to be exposed to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); global reports of seasonal influenza are at record lows; economic disparities are highlighted by turnaround times for COVID-19 tests. 

Pregnant Black, Hispanic Women More Likely to Be Exposed to COVID-19

Data from 2 hospitals in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania show pregnant black and Hispanic women were 5 times more likely than their Asian peers to have been exposed to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), CIDRAP reports. The data, published in Science Immunology, found 80 of 1293 pregnant women who went into labor between April 4 and June 3 tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies. However, while 9.7% of black women and 10.4% of Hispanic women tested positive for antibodies, only 2% of white women and 0.9% of Asian women yielded positive results. Researchers note identifying disparities in virus exposure may lead to insights on the causes of these differences, and better inform public health measures to limit future infections.

Reports of Seasonal Flu, Communicable Diseases Drop

Seasonal flu reports have hit record lows according to early figures, largely due to global social distancing rules, Reuters reports. The numbers suggest social distancing measures have an unprecedented impact on other communicable diseases as well. Additional data show new reports of mumps, measles, and some sexually transmitted diseases have dropped significantly in China. Seasonal influenza infections, reported monthly by China’s health ministry, show cases have dropped by over 90% since the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown. Specifically, case numbers decreased from an average 290,000 cases a month to 23,000. Canada and South Korea have also reported sharp declines in influenza cases.

Economic Disparities in COVID-19 Test Turnaround

Individuals are expressing frustration at slow turnaround for COVID-19 test results, while others, not relying on public health systems, enjoy the luxury of more efficient, private systems, the AP reports. Individuals within the National Basketball Association in Florida report being tested and getting results within one day, as other Floridians wait up to 8 days to find out if they have the disease. Lab staffing, backlog, and equipment shortages all play a role in the slow turnaround. Although some tests are completed within the state, others are sent to overloaded labs outside Florida. Other states report similar frustrations with uncoordinated public health systems relying on private laboratories, citing a lack of communication between all systems involved.