Following a study that linked the likelihood of COVID-19 cases and deaths in a nursing home to the racial makeup of its surrounding community, a New York-based research team is calling on the federal government to address structural racism and its negative health impacts on minorities.

The findings by the University of Rochester-led research team were published Sunday in the Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.

They showed facilities with higher proportions of Black and Hispanic residents had higher rates of COVID-19 within their community — and the rate of cases increased depending on whether the surrounding community had more people of color. 

Specifically, the rate of COVID-19 cases in low-, moderate- and high-minority nursing homes was 5.5%, 11.1% and 14.8%, respectively, in low-minority communities. The same rate of cases was found to be 10.6%, 14.5% and 20.4%, respectively, for facilities in high-minority communities. 

Overall, investigators found that nursing homes with high proportions of minorities had a 5% to 7.2% higher chance of having COVID-19 cases within their facilities, and between a 2.6% to 6.4% higher chance of having COVID-19-related deaths. 

The findings are in line with several previous studies that have found race to be a key factor in facility outbreaks.

“There has long been a great concern that structural racism and social factors are intertwined with the unequal health care and health outcomes among people of color,” investigators wrote. “Poor living conditions, barriers in access to care [and] limited access to education in these communities may contribute to the higher COVID-19 infection rates in the community.” 

They suggested federal health officials need to make “additional efforts … to reduce structural racism and address social risk factors to improve quality of care and population health in communities of color.”