Lancaster Blog
Independent Journalism Serving Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania COVID-19 Cases Show Stark Racial Differences

Pennsylvania COVID-19 Cases Show Stark Racial Differences

One in three with virus are black
By Trey 32 comments

Weeks after Lancaster-Blog filed a Freedom of Information request with the Pennsylvania Department of Health for data on the demographics of COVID-19 cases in the state, officials have released partial numbers.

Lancaster-Blog will continue pressing for full disclosure of all COVID-19 data in the public in the public interest.

The key takeaway seems to be that blacks are much more likely to be infected, and more likely to die from it, owing to congenital chronic diseases and poor lifestyle choices like bad diet, lack of exercise and heavily indulging in harmful vices. 

The data released only represents about a quarter of cases in the Keystone State, but it tracks with trends in other states showing blacks are far more likely to be infected, and more vulnerable to a fatal outcome, apparently because of comorbid conditions like obesity and poor lifestyles.

The state Department of Health, which possesses the physical addresses for the majority of those tested and those who have died of the virus, has declined to provide case and death counts beyond the county level.

Of the roughly one-quarter of patients for which we have data, about 33% are blacks. Blacks make up just 12% of the state population. White Pennsylvanians, meanwhile, are 80% of the state, yet only 63% of the patients in the limited data the state released.

What we do know from the data released so far is that in Lancaster County, the bulk of fatal cases have been in Lancaster Township, the small suburb of Lancaster city. It accounts for half of the more than 100  COVID-19 deaths in the entire county. The bulk of these deaths have been in the middle of April – something like 63 of the total 100+ deaths.

The latest data released also shows COVID-19 cases by ZIP code statewide. You can look at the state’s interactive map here.

The Department of Health map shows the most cases are naturally in the most populated zip codes, which are in or surrounding Lancaster city. As of the week of April 20, the zip code 17603 has 291 positive cases, followed by 17602 at 211 and 17601 with 144. 

The 17603 zip code is, according to the latest Census data, is 58% white, 26% Hispanic, and 9% black. The area includes both urban areas in west Lancaster city and more rural areas to the south of Lancaster city. The 17602 zip code has similar demographics, and covers the area to the east and southeast of Lancaster city.