Profiles of NYC coronavirus patients highlight social inequality

Back in early April, when the coronavirus pandemic was rapidly expanding in the US, some observers had the impression it would act as a kind of leveler. A study published on April 22 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) looked at the profiles of 5,700 patients hospitalized with Covid-19 in New York City. Over 40% were Medicare patients, meaning age 65 or older and thus at high risk of serious infections, while more than 20% were covered by Medicaid, which is a proxy for low income. A map published by the city summarizes the picture well: The areas with the most Covid-19 cases are by and large the ones where incomes are lower and minority populations are larger, or both. “For us, this was really to give the readers asense of what [coronavirus] patients look like, and what are the most common co-morbidities: hypertension, diabetes, obesity,” she told Quartz. “It is established that health is dependent on socioeconomic factors,” said Gabriela Oates, a professor at the school of medicine of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. But health behaviors, too, are essentially a function of privilege:Unfavorable ones, such as smoking or eating less fruit and vegetables than recommended, or leading a sedentary lifestyle, are very much dependent on one’s position in society.