The COVID-19 pandemic has caused Americans to reassess their living arrangements, work situations, how they travel, and how they spend their free time. It has also impacted how they manage at home when faced with a COVID-19 infection or exposure in order to keep others safe.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that people infected with COVID-19 self-isolate at home and stay in a specific “sick room” and use a separate bathroom if possible. However, many American households do not have enough rooms or amenities to quarantine effectively. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, it is estimated that at least 11.5 million households, or 13.1% of multi-person households, are unable to effectively quarantine due to not having enough bedrooms, a full kitchen, or complete plumbing in their homes.
CDC data shows that minorities are at increased risk of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and death when compared to non-Hispanic Whites. This is due to a number of factors, including the increased prevalence of certain underlying health conditions among minorities, unequal access to health care, and increased exposure to the virus due to occupation. American Indian or Alaska Natives are at particularly high risk of both COVID-19 infections and adverse outcomes. In comparison to non-Hispanic Whites, they are 1.6 times as likely to become infected with COVID-19, 3.3 times as likely to be hospitalized, and 2.2 times as likely to die. Other minorities, especially Hispanics and Blacks, are also at a much greater risk of infection, hospitalization, and death.
Not only are minority households at greater risk of COVID-19 infection and adverse outcomes, but they are also less likely than non-Hispanic White households to be able to quarantine effectively when considering the availability of separate bedrooms, the presence of a full kitchen, and complete plumbing. Over one in four Hispanic households are unable to quarantine effectively due to their living arrangement; similarly high rates are observed in other non-White communities. In contrast, less than one out of every 10 non-Hispanic White households lack the basic necessities to quarantine an individual effectively.
Locations with large minority populations and expensive housing are more likely to face challenges in this area. At the state level, residents of California and New York are most disadvantaged when it comes to taking effective quarantine measures. It’s estimated that more than 20% of multi-person households don’t have sufficient space to isolate an infected member of the home if needed. At the opposite end of the spectrum, residents in less expensive and less diverse states like Wyoming and West Virginia are more likely to have the necessary space to do so.
To find the states where residents are unable to quarantine, researchers at Smartest Dollar analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The researchers ranked states according to the percentage of multi-person households without the space or facilities needed to effectively quarantine an individual. For the purpose of this analysis, this means having complete plumbing, a full kitchen, and enough bedrooms to isolate an individual without forcing the remaining household members to sleep with more than two people in a bedroom. Researchers also included the percentage of the population that is not non-Hispanic White in each location and the poverty rate.
The analysis found that 22.2% of multi-person households in California are unable to quarantine. Out of all U.S. states, California has the largest percentage of households that lack the space and amenities needed to effectively quarantine. Here is a summary of the data for California:
- Percentage of households unable to quarantine: 22.2%
- Total households unable to quarantine: 2,210,040
- Minority population share: 63.7%
- Poverty rate: 11.8%
For reference, here are the statistics for the entire United States:
- Percentage of households unable to quarantine: 13.1%
- Total households unable to quarantine: 11,517,279
- Minority population share: 40.0%
- Poverty rate: 12.3%
For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on Smartest Dollar’s website: https://smartestdollar.com/research/cities-where-residents-are-unable-to-quarantine
Mike LaFirenza writes for Lattice News Wire