Structural racism and risk of SARS-CoV-2 in pregnancy

Elsevier, eClinicalMedicine, Volume 37, July 2021
Pope R., Ganesh P., Miracle J., Brazile R., Wolfe H., Rose J. et al.

Background: Structural racism leads to adverse health outcomes, as highlighted by inequities in COVID-19 infections. We characterized Black/White disparities among pregnant women with SARS-CoV-2 in Cuyahoga County which has some of the most extreme health disparities in the U.S., such as a rate of Black infant mortality that is three times that of White counterparts. Methods: This was a retrospective cohort study using data collected as part of public health surveillance between March 16, 2020 until October 1, 2020. This study aimed to compare Black and Non-Black pregnant women infected with SARS-CoV-2 to understand how the distribution of risk factors may differ by race. Outcomes included age, gestational age at infection, medical co-morbidities, exposure history, socio-economic status, occupation, symptom severity and pregnancy complications. Findings: One hundred and sixty-two women were included. 81 (50%) were Black, 67 (41%) White, 9 (0·05%) Hispanic, 2 (0·01%) Asian; and three did not self-identify with any particular race. More than half who supplied occupational information (n = 132) were essential workers as classified by the CDC definition (55%, n = 73). Black women were younger (p = 0·0062) and more likely to identify an occupational contact as exposing them to SARS-CoV-2 (p = 0·020). Non-Black women were more likely to work from home (p = 0·018) and indicate a personal or household contact as their exposure (p = 0·020). Occupation was a risk factor for severe symptoms (aOR 4·487, p = 0·037). Most Black women lived in areas with median income <$39,000 and Black women were more likely to have a preterm delivery (22·2% versus 0%, p = 0·026). Interpretation: Many pregnant women infected by SARS-CoV-2 are essential workers. Black women are more likely than White counterparts to have occupational exposure as the presumed source for their infection. Limitations in occupational options and controlling risk in these positions could be related to lower socio-economic status, resulting from a long history of structural racism in Cuyahoga County as evidenced by redlining and other policies limiting opportunities for people of color. Funding: none.