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Vanderbilt: Data shows COVID-19 impact on minority communities

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Posted at 11:02 AM, Jun 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-17 12:03:02-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Vanderbilt University Medical Center says early data has revealed how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting Nashville’s minority communities.

Vanderbilt said in a release Wednesday that the data shows the “disproportionate impact the pandemic is having on racial or ethnic communities.”

Of the first 18,491 patients tested for the novel coronavirus, 1,063 speak 37 languages other than English, according to analysis of electronic health records. Even though the group represents 5.7% of those tested, they make up 19.4% of those who’ve tested positive. The highest number live in two adjacent Nashville ZIP codes.

Now, the Office of Health Equity – led by Dr. Consuelo Wilkins, vice president for Health Equity for VUMC and associate dean for Health Equity at Vanderbilt School of Medicine – is working to separate the data by language as well as race, ethnicity, ZIP code and insurance status about who has been tested, tested positive, hospitalized or deceased.

The university said it’s using real-time data to improve and set protocols that prioritize health equity across local and national health systems.

“It’s critical to draw awareness to the disparity in communication and access to treatment as well as the economic, cultural and societal factors that impact ability to navigate care. We’re zeroing in on disaggregating the data by race, ethnicity and language because we can’t address inequities if we don’t know who they are,” said Wilkins, who is also executive director of the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance.

Vanderbilt said these communities, as well as low income or other vulnerable populations, are at higher risk of severe outcomes and death from COVID-19.

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What is COVID-19 (a.k.a. the new coronavirus?)

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Examples include the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. COVID-19 stands for "Coronavirus disease 2019," which is when this strain of the coronavirus was discovered.

What are the symptoms?

The CDC says patients confirmed to have the 2019-nCoV reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Or at least two of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

At this time, the CDC believes symptoms could appear as soon as two days after exposure, or as long as 14 days.

Prevention

The CDC is recommending "common sense" measures such as:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.