COVID-19 Deaths Are Twice As High In The Bronx, New York City’s Poorest & Most Ethnically Diverse Borough, As Compared To Manhattan
The Bronx, New York City.

COVID-19 deaths per capita are twice as high in The Bronx, New York City’s poorest and most racially diverse borough, as compared to the predominantly white and more affluent borough of Manhattan, reported a new study published in JAMA on Wednesday. 

The study’s findings draw out the potentially stark differences in the way the virus can exacerbate existing social and health inequalities, suggest the authors, researchers at some of New York City’s leading medical centres and the Harvard Chan School of Public Health.

The proportion of black or African American persons is highest in the Bronx (38.3%) and it is also New York’s least educated and poorest area, as well as being home to twice as many people of Black, African American and Hispanic origin in comparison with Manhattan.

In the case of COVID-19, the findings are particularly striking insofar as the virus has hit hardest in the Bronx, even though the proportion of older adults (aged ≥65 years) there is lowest among all New York City boroughs (12.8%); as compared to Manhattan, which has the highest proportion of older residents (16.5%). Most COVID-19 mortality trends in Asia, Europe and elsewhere have shown a striking association between a higher average population age and higher mortality rates. 

The Bronx is also half as densely populated as Manhattan and also has the youngest population in the whole of New York. In other settings, high housing densities have also been associated with greater rates of disease transmission.

COVID-19 deaths are highest in New York’s deprived areas

In the Bronx, there had been 173 confirmed COVID-19 deaths per 100 000 people, as of 25 April, as compared to 91 in Manhattan. Similarly, there were 634 hospitalizations per 100 000 people in the Bronx compared to 331 in Manhattan. 

Along with economic and social disparities, it is possible that more Bronx residents also have been hospitalized for COVID-19, and subsequently died, due to a higher rate of pre-existing illnesses, which increase their vulnerability to the disease. However, the study was unable to collect such data from individuals due to its ‘ecological’ design, which can only be used to tease out broad differences between populations.

Structural inequities” can also drive the number of deaths seen in the Bronx, suggest the authors. For many years, a growing body of evidence has shown that ethnicity and discrimination can affect a person’s health status in various ways – Racial minorities often grow up in deprived and unhealthy environments with less access to high-quality education and healthcare. 

In the Bronx, people are three times less likely to have a Bachelor’s degree compared to people living in Manhattan, and average household income for people living in the Bronx is less than half that of Manhattan, reported the study.

New York harbors almost one-fifth of the USA’s COVID-19 cases, and is the epicentre for the outbreak in the United States.

Image Credits: Phillip Capper , JAMA.