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People of color more adversely affected by COVID-19 lockdowns, study finds

COVID-19 restrictions disproportionately impact communities of color, a new study has found. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
COVID-19 restrictions disproportionately impact communities of color, a new study has found. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

April 7 (UPI) -- Just as the COVID-19 pandemic has more profoundly impacted communities of color, with higher infection and death rates than White communities, so too have lockdown measures designed to contain the virus, an analysis published Wednesday by JAMA Network Open found.

Low-income Black men were about three times as likely as high-income White men to experience "food insufficiency" and unemployment as a result of the pandemic and related lockdowns, the data showed.

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Similarly, low-income Black women had a 90% higher risk than high income White men for mental health problems caused by the pandemic and infection control measures.

In addition, as states strengthened stay-at-home restrictions and closed businesses and schools to limit virus spread, the risk for food insufficiency and unemployment increased, particularly for people of color and those with low household incomes, according to the researchers.

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For every 10% reduction in mobility caused by lockdown measures, the risk for food insufficiency -- "sometimes or often not having enough food to eat in the last seven days" -- rose by 30%, while the risk for unemployment increased by 10%.

"Like taxes, lockdowns are a cost imposed on everyone, but have differential impacts across a population," study co-author Leigh Hamlet told UPI in an email.

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"More privileged sub-populations tend to have minimized costs, meaning that regressive policies can amplify pre-existing inequities, which is what we may be seeing in our results,' said Hamlet, a doctoral candidate at the University of Washington in Seattle.

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Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, states across the country have instituted varying levels of restrictions designed to limit virus spread.

These measures included school and business closures, as well as limiting capacity in places such as restaurants and other public spaces.

Although the pandemic, and these infection control approaches, impacted virtually everyone across the country, those in certain areas already living in poverty were more affected.

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The findings are based on surveys of nearly 1.1 million adults age 18 to 88 in the United States, of whom 63% were White, 13% were Black, 15% were Hispanic and 6% were Asian.

Among the respondents, 30% of Black adults and 28% of Hispanic adults reported pandemic-related food insufficiency, while 20% of Asian adults and 19% of White adults did so.

Pandemic-related job loss was reported by 23% of Black and Hispanic respondents, compared with 16% of White respondents.

About 20% of Black and Hispanic respondents reported mental health problems caused by the pandemic, compared with 17% of White respondents, according to the researchers.

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"By their very nature, lockdowns restrict livelihoods by restricting mobility, [and] our analysis suggests that the jobs of certain marginalized groups such as Hispanic and African American men were most at-risk," Hamlet said.

"If a government chooses to restrict mobility, once it chooses the lockdown route we recommend that it begin to roll out relief measures for these groups," she said.

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