U.S. poor died at much higher rate from COVID than rich - report

FILE PHOTO: An Orion EMS ambulance transports patients amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in Houston

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Americans living in poorer counties died during the pandemic at almost twice the rate of those in rich counties, a study released Monday by the Poor People's Campaign showed.

The study, based on income and death data from over 3,200 U.S. counties, shows an even bigger gap during the Delta variant that made up the U.S.'s fourth coronavirus wave, when people living in the lowest income counties died at five times the rate of those in the highest income counties.

The 300 counties with the highest death rates have an average poverty rate of 45%, and household median incomes on average $23,000 lower than counties with lower rates. Many of the top twenty counties were sparsely populated areas in Georgia, Texas and Virginia, the report and an accompanying map of death rates and income https://sdsn.maps.arcgis.com/apps/dashboards/5f63359b4889476380d12b1cb5299f3d online show.

"The neglect of poor and low-wealth people in this country during a pandemic is immoral, shocking and unjust, especially in light of the trillions of dollars that profit-driven entities received," said William Barber, director of the Poor People's Campaign, an activist group that aims to correct the United States' income inequality.

The United States is the only wealthy nation not to guarantee health services for all, and witnessed the biggest decline in male life expectancy during the COVID-pandemic of 29 nations studied by Oxford University.

More than 980,000 Americans have died of COVID, the most of any country in the world.

Vaccine hesitancy that left one-fourth of all American adults unvaccinated likely accounts for hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths, public health experts say.

(Reporting by Heather Timmons)