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In 2020, there was a significant increase in unexpected infant deaths amongst Black Americans despite the lower child mortality rate, according to a newly published study.
Released on Monday through the medical journal Pediatrics, the study, titled “Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths: 2015–2020,” looked at information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Focusing on a five-year span, the researchers analyzed the rates of sudden unexpected infant death, or SUIDS, up until 2020, when the rates were last documented. Under this umbrella term, they looked at three main causes of death, including accidental suffocation and sudden infant death or SIDS.
Divided based on race and ethnicity, the researchers reported that there was an increase of 15% in just one year when it came to SIDS cases amongst Black infants. While the recorded rate was 33.3% out of every 100,000 deaths from SIDS in 2019, it increased to 38.2% in 2020. When it came to pinpointing the reason behind why there was an exponential increase in unexpected infant death amongst the Black community, however, the researchers were unable to track down one single reason.
In their conclusion, while they didn’t directly label the illness as a contributor, COVID-19 was identified as a factor in the rate of an increase in SIDS cases.
“Our findings support evidence that the increased SIDS rate in 2020 as compared to 2019 was likely unrelated to direct effects of the COVID-19 illness but may be attributed to diagnostic shifting in cause-specific SUID rates,” wrote the researchers in their report. “Although an overall increased SUID trend during 2015 to 2019 was not observed, continued monitoring is critical; we do not yet understand how the Delta and Omicron COVID-19 variants impacted SUID.”
During the pandemic, the Black community was one of the most affected communities in the U.S. According to the National Library of Medicine, in 2020, approximately 97.9 out of every 100,000 Black people in the U.S. passed away because of COVID-19. This rate was more than twice that of white Americans, as they recorded a COVID-19 mortality rate of 46.6 per every 100,000 white people.
Three years after the start of the pandemic, while COVID-19-related deaths are now most common amongst white Americans, Black Americans still record the third-highest death rates. According to the latest data by the CDC, nearly 13% of the 815,425 COVID-19-related deaths identified by race were Black Americans.