NORFOLK, Va. — COVID-19 is the third leading cause of death in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports.
And we found the cities with the highest COVID-19 death rates were places already inflicted with lower-than-average life expectancies.
Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, for example, have the longest life expectancies in Hampton Roads at 81 and 79 years, respectively. Those two cities also have the lowest COVID-19 death rate in the region, according to data from the Virginia Department of Health.
On the other hand, Portsmouth has the shortest life expectancy at 74 years and the highest COVID-19 death rate in the Seven Cities.
Dr. Derek Chapman from VCU's Center on Society and Health studies health inequities for a living and says that overlap is no coincidence.
He said people in poorer communities with already lower life expectancies may face heightened exposure to COVID-19 and have a greater chance to die from complications because of underlying health risks.
“There’s a whole complex web of factors that drives the longstanding life expectancy gaps between Black and White individuals, or educated and uneducated, or poor and wealthy. Those have been around for a while, but it’s just happening in real-time with this infectious disease that’s killing people so quickly," Dr. Derek Chapman said.
The pandemic helped highlight already existing health disparities, he added.