Skip to Content

COVID-19’s Impact on Communities of Color

In 2014, the PHIWM released the first Health Equity report under the leadership of our founding Executive Director, Dr. Frank Robinson.  We called out the growing understanding that basic human needs (food, housing, education, employment) are the key determinants of health outcomes.  Many of the health inequities experienced by communities of color, low-income people, and other vulnerable populations are due to created barriers to basic human needs. These barriers are often rooted in a history of discrimination at the individual, institutional, and government levels. Therefore, we are not surprised about the data reports shared by the MA Department of Public Health (DPH) showing who is more at risk and being impacted more by COVID-19.  Painful, but obvious, those burdened already continue to be burdened.  For the past months we have watched residents, institutions and government bodies calling out racism as a public health crisis and demanding policy changes to systems such as housing, economic development and criminal justice.  Please review the data below and take action.

On June 19th, MA DPH’s COVID-19 Health Equity Advisory group released new data that highlights disparities in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths for different races and ethnicities.  According to their analysis, Black and Hispanic/Latinx residents have more than three times a higher positive COVID-19 case rate than White residents.  Similarly, Black residents represent 7% of the MA population but account for 14% of COVID-19 cases.  Hispanics/Latinx residents represent 12% of the population, but more than twice that proportion of cases (29%).

Graph from Health Equity Advisory Groups Recommendations PowerPoint 6-19-2020, accessed 6/23/2020 from , Data as of 6/17/2020

Hospitalization data also reveal that Black and Hispanic/Latinx populations bear a greater burden of COVID-19 hospitalizations.  The rate of hospitalizations for Black residents and Hispanic/Latinx residents is 2.4 times and 1.6 times higher (respectively) than for White residents. 

Graph from Health Equity Advisory Groups Recommendations PowerPoint 6-19-2020, accessed 6/23/2020 from Data as of 6/17/2020

Inequities can also be seen in COVID-19 death data.  The age-adjusted death rate is highest among Black residents, followed by Hispanic/Latinx residents.  Age-adjusted rates are helpful for comparisons between different race/ethnic groups given differences in the age distribution of these populations.

Graph from Health Equity Advisory Groups Recommendations PowerPoint 6-19-2020, accessed 6/23/2020 from ; Data as of 6/17/2020, Note: Population denominators for rate calculations provided by UMass Donahue Inst. based on Strate S, et al. Small Area Population Estimates for 2011 through 2020, published March 2020 (original report published Oct 2016). Rates are per 100,000 population.  Age-adjusted to the 2000 US standard population. See weights used at:

Although there are limitations with the data (race/ethnicity is missing or unknown in 35% of cases, 16% of hospitalizations, 2% of deaths as of June 22, 2020), the fact that we can see inequities in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths highlights the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black and Latinx communities.

The COVID-19 Health Equity Advisory Group is convened by Public Health Commissioner Bharel to generate recommendations to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic with a health equity lens.  The press release lists several key recommendations, including: continuing to disaggregate COVID data across populations and sectors; increasing equitable distribution of PPE for essential workers and residents in professions at most risk; and implementing policies that increase housing stability for populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.  See a full list of recommendations from the Health Equity Advisory Group.

Partners across the state and locally are working on efforts to address health and racial inequities, the PHIWM included.  Our mission at the PHIWM is to create measurably healthier communities, and our work is centered on health equity.  We will continue to amplify advocacy opportunities; use data, research and evaluation to track and highlight inequities; and build partnerships and coalitions to identify and address those structures and policies that allow for inequities.

Visit our COVID-19 Data page to learn more.

Community-Level COVID-19 Data Over Time

On November 6, 2020, the Baker-Polito Administration released updated metrics for communities that adjust for a municipality's population size.  The new metrics incorporate cases per 100,000 residents and the test positivity rate when determining a color designation.  More details about the color designations can be found in the table below.  To see community designations, please download the spreadsheets below or visit the county pages.

new MDPH covid metrics Nov2020 (2).png

Hospital Capacity by Region

Based on best available data as of 2/18/21


COVID-19 Vaccine

Based on best available data as of 2/18/21

The state now has a weekly COVID-19 vaccination report.  This weekly report features information on COVID-19 vaccine supply distribution, administration, and other data for Massachusetts.  It is updated each Thursday at 5pm.

Please Note: Some federal facilities in MA receive vaccine from a separate federal distribution system that is not included in this data.


The map below shows COVID-19 vaccine doses shipped to providers in different counties as a percentage of the population.  It is important to note that the providers shown are the initial recipients, and doses may be redistributed to other providers (and other counties).

Data Sources and Notes

  • Sources: 
  • Comparisons to previous two-week period: Symbols indicate change when compared to prior two-week period.  For new cases, incidence per 100,000, and total tests: Higher (upward arrow) means the number in the current two-week period is higher than the prior period. Lower (downward arrow) means the number in the current two-week period is lower than prior two-week period. No change (equal sign) means the number in the current two-week period is the same as the prior period. For percent positivity: less than 0.10% difference in the percent positivity is considered No change (equal sign). 
  • Race and ethnicity data by county and community is not available at this time.
  • Change in reporting: MDPH changed their reporting of county data on 8/12/20. Previously, county cases were in the Daily COVID-19 Dashboard report and included probable and confirmed cases. Beginning 8/12/20, county data is now reported in the Weekly COVID-19 report and cases only include confirmed cases. Thus, we are not currently able to show new case county-level data and other county-level data over time for periods prior to 8/12/20.
© 2021 Public Health Institute of Western MA, All Rights Reserved
PlusPortals Sign In

Can't access your account?

Site Search