‘We failed to protect them’: Life expectancy falls further for Hispanic, Black Americans amid COVID

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — U.S. life expectancy fell a year and a half — from 78.8 years in 2019 to 77.3 years in 2020.

The new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows the drop is largely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the decrease in life expectancy for both Black Americans and Hispanic Americans was even worse.

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Hispanic Americans’ life expectancy decreased by three years from 81.8 years to 78.8 years.

For Black Americans, life expectancy decreased from 74.7 years to 71.8 years.

It’s a drastic disparity when compared to the decrease for white Americans, falling 1.2 years to 77.6 years.

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Dr. Ali Mokdad, with the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, said minorities were exposed more to the coronavirus because several of them are in the service industry and couldn’t work from home.

“We failed to protect them, quite honestly,” he said.

Minorities also historically have less access to health care and a greater chance of receiving poorer quality of care.

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“Social determinants of health of well being is really what is driving how the epidemic continues,” Mokdad said.

Dr. Elena Cyrus with the University of Central Florida said underlying genetic conditions are also at play.

“We need to start looking at populations, rural populations, undocumented populations, even though they may not be at the forefront of our mind, because they’re not in our society or community,” she said. " They drive the epidemic.”

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Cyrus said the gaps in health care are glaring.

“We need to acknowledge that in the United States, Enough saying (we are) the best of the best. No, we’re not,” she said. “We have cracks in our system. We have to acknowledge that. And you have to address that.”

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.