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Our CEO: Disparities, Inequality ‘Brought to the Forefront’ by COVID

Black and Hispanic Americans and members of underserved communities have disproportionately borne the brunt of COVID-19, AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins said Thursday during our latest tele-town hall.  “Everything we’ve been going through these last few years has really shone a spotlight on where disparities exist,” she said. “COVID just brought it to the forefront.”

Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that hospitalization rates for Black adults were nearly four times as high as rates for white adults during winter’s omicron surge. And nursing homes with high proportions of Black and Hispanic residents reported more than three times as many COVID-19 deaths as homes with more white residents.

“Our work at AARP is going to be steadfast around health security and financial resilience and keeping in the backs of our minds those who have been disproportionately affected,” Jenkins said during the tele-town hall, which focused on the impact COVID-19 has had on older adults and what to expect moving forward.

She was joined by Taison Bell, an assistant professor of medicine in the infectious diseases division at the University of Virginia. Bell said the new omicron subvariant that’s sweeping through the U.S., called BA.2, does not seem to be more deadly than the original omicron variant — just more transmissible. And he said he’s encouraged that European countries where there have been larger subvariant outbreaks haven’t seen a dramatic uptick in hospitalizations or deaths. “Hopefully, we won’t see as much of a rise in hospitalizations as we did with the original omicron,” he said.

Watch a replay of Thursday’s program and our previous tele-town halls.

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