Lancaster County Releases Data Showing COVID's Disproportionate Impact On Minorities

May 13, 2020 - 5:00pm

Lincoln and Lancaster County officials released data Wednesday showing that COVID-19 is affecting minorities in the county more severely than white residents. 

Health Department Epidemiologist Raju Kakarlapudi said Asian, Hispanic, and African American people have been affected the most, even though white people make up nearly 85% of the county’s population.

Nebraska is one of just five states not releasing COVID-19 data broken down by race, although officials have promised to release the information by the end of May.

Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird said factors such as access to information may have an influence on these numbers and says the county is taking steps to reduce those factors.

Nebraska is one of only five states not releasing data about COVID-19 cases broken down by race. (Source & Map: Johns Hopkins University

“We will continue to do all of this and more because this data isn’t just data, and these numbers aren’t just numbers to us," Gaylor Baird said. "They’re people. People who call Lincoln home, people who we care deeply about, and people who make this city great." 

Gaylor Baird said investment in targeted outreach may help reduce the disparity. 

Officials at Bryan Health in Lincoln say their own data confirms the disproportionate impact. 

As of May 11, Bryan had tested about 6,000 people in Lancaster and Saline Counties. Hispanics received about 13% of those tests, but make up 34% of the positive cases. And Asians received about 7% of the tests, but make up 17% of COVID-19 infections.

Bob Ravenscroft, Vice President of Advancement, said language barriers have gotten in the way of vital prevention information. 

"I don’t think we’ve done a good job as a state, frankly, getting the messages to different communities as effectively as we could early on about prevention," Ravenscroft said.

Minorities are less likely to have health insurance or a regular physician, and are more likely to have some of the underlying health conditions that make COVID symptoms more severe.

Douglas County has been releasing information about race and ethnicity for weeks, although the disparities have become more pronounced over time. 

As of Tuesday night, Hispanic residents of the county made up about 36% of COVID-19 cases despite being only 13% of the population. 

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