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New racial data show Hispanic and black Delawareans hit hardest by coronavirus

New data on the race and ethnicity of known coronavirus cases in Delaware show the virus is disproportionately impacting black and Hispanic communities.


The race or ethnicity is known for only about three-quarters of the lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Delaware so far, according to the My Healthy Community web tool run by the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS).

So far 28 percent of known cases have been non-Hispanic black. Around 26 percent of the cases have been non-Hispanic white, and 15 percent have been Hispanic. But that breakdown does not match Delaware’s demographics. 

The per capita rate of cases is highest in Delaware’s Hispanic or Latino community— where there have been 60 cases per 10,000 residents. There have been 46 cases per 10,000 black residents and just 14 cases per 10,000 white residents. 

A new map shows the ZIP codes around Georgetown and Ellendale have the highest per capita rates of COVID-19 in the state.

State Sen. Darius Brown expressed concern earlier this week about the impact of the virus on his largely black and brown constituents in the Route 9 corridor. 

“African Americans, Hispanics already have pre-existing health issues around high blood pressure, sugar, diabetes, and so COVID exacerbates that," he said. "These communities, they’re not self-isolated by living at home alone. They are oftentimes multi-generational.”

He noted many also work essential jobs, such as at the Port of Wilmington, in grocery stores or in manufacturing.

Brown called for more detailed geographical data to truly identify virus hotspots. 

“We need more testing, and we also need data that is specific, that is drilled down beyond ZIP code to census tract,” he said. “ZIP codes literally can expand. For example 19720 which is along the Route 9 Corridor, you can be a resident of Dunleith or you can be a resident that lives in Llangollen Estates.”

DHSS Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker said Friday the issue is privacy.  

“The challenge with census tract is that as you get smaller and smaller by neighborhood or block, it’s very easy to figure out who that one person is based on their age and gender and where they’re living,” she said. 

But as the number of cases grows, the state will be able to report data at the census tract level through the My Healthy Community tool. “Usually that means by census tract you may have ten or more people so that you can’t identify them," said Walker.

Gov. John Carney said Friday there are efforts in conjunction with area hospitals to increase testing in communities of color, including on the Route 9 Corridor between Wilmington and New Castle and particularly in Sussex County.

“Right now there is intense focus on testing and outreach to the Hispanic, to the Hatian Creole population and caucasion poultry worker population in Sussex County," he said. "That’s taken a lot of resources and a lot of our time and we really have a lot of work to do there.”

Known virus-linked deaths in Delaware have been predominantly white. Many of the deaths have been linked to long-term care facilities.


This story will be updated.


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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