Lower-income Ontarians continue to die of COVID-19 at much higher rates than those with higher incomes — a troubling pattern repeated in each of the province’s six pandemic waves, new data shows.
In yet another indication that COVID is not an equal-opportunity illness, researchers at the University of Toronto have found that death rates from the virus in Ontario’s lowest-income neighbourhoods have been roughly double those in the province’s richest areas throughout the pandemic.
That COVID deaths remain disproportionately concentrated in lower-income neighbourhoods even after the rollout of vaccines, antiviral medications and COVID treatments — in addition to seemingly endless calls for equitable access to public health resources — illustrates that for many the pandemic is far from over.
“It begs the question: Among whom are we flattening the curve?” said Dr. Sharmistha Mishra, an infectious disease physician and mathematical modeller at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital. Mishra heads a research team that analyzes COVID mortality data. She shared the sixth-wave analysis with the Star; the team’s analysis of the other five waves has been previously presented by the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.
With another wave of the virus expected this fall, Mishra and other experts are calling for the province to further fund tailored prevention and treatment strategies for the most vulnerable, including older Ontarians and communities with the lowest income brackets.