Not a New Story: Place‐ and Race‐Based Disparities in COVID‐19 and Influenza Hospitalizations among Medicaid‐Insured Adults in New York City

For all that is unprecedented about COVID-19, the race-based health disparities in the pandemic's early days are sadly familiar. In this study, the authors compare the geographic and racial/ethnic disparities during the first three waves of the COVID-19 pandemic (first wave: January 1–April 30, 2020; second wave: May 1–August 31, 2020; third wave: September 1–December 31, 2020) to the 2016 and 2017 influenza seasons using New York State Medicaid claims data. Ultimately, the study concludes that while geographic and racial/ethnic disparities evident during the first wave of the pandemic were similar to those of previous waves of influenza, the later waves of COVID-19 hospitalizations reflected far less severe disparities. This is one of the first papers to examine how the characteristics of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 changed over the course of 2020, and in turn demonstrates how COVID-19-related racial/ethnic disparities decreased over time.