American Lung Association Responds to Higher Rates of Hospitalizations, Deaths Among Minorities

In response to emerging data showing higher rates of COVID-19 impacts among minorities, American Lung Association President and CEO Harold Wimmer shared the following statement:

“As we learn more about rates of COVID-19 among minority populations, two things are emerging: minorities are experiencing a disproportionate burden of COVID-19-related illness and death, and we need more attention and resources to address this inequality and support the health of minority communities.
CDC found black people were disproportionately hospitalized as a result of COVID-19, and both Hispanic and black people had a substantially higher death rate than white or Asian people. Data remains largely unavailable for smaller groups, including people who are American Indian and Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders. This limits the ability to identify impacts for these individuals even though they may be at high risk due to underlying disparities.

“As our nation faces this pandemic, the American Lung Association calls on CDC to ensure that the impact of COVID-19 on minority populations is completely tracked, adequately addressed, and steps are taken to support the health of minority populations and communities.

“While there is certainly more to learn about COVID-19 and its impact on minority populations, the factors that contribute toward this disparity are well known. COVID-19 underscores the health disparities that far too many Americans face. Access to quality and affordable healthcare, exposure to environmental hazards such as air pollution, and lack of access to resources all play a role in making far too many Americans more vulnerable to poor health, pre-existing conditions such as asthma and diabetes, and as a result – the more severe effects of COVID-19.

“Quality and affordable healthcare that includes preventative care is essential to protecting the health of all Americans. By reducing preventable diseases and better controlling the symptoms of asthma and other lung diseases, we can save more lives not only during this pandemic but perhaps also the next.

“Minority populations are disproportionately exposed to air pollution, which harms health and may make a person more vulnerable to COVID-19. A recent study from Harvard’s Chan School of Medicine indicates that long-term exposure to even small amounts of particle pollution can increase the death rate associated with COVID-19 by 15% [following publication of our statement, the researchers updated their analysis with a revised finding of an 8% increase in the COVID-19 death rate, rather than 15% increase].

“The American Lung Association will continue to champion the health of all Americans, and ensure everyone has access to quality and affordable healthcare, clean air and tobacco-free communities.”

Learn more about COVID-19 and lung health at More information about the American Lung Association’s COVID-19 Action Initiative and how to support this effort may be found at
For media interested in speaking with an expert about COVID-19 and lung health, contact Stephanie Goldina at the American Lung Association at [email protected] or 312-801-7629.

For more information, contact:

Elizabeth Cook
[email protected]

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