“Bring the Hoses to Where the Fire Is!”: Differential Impacts of Marginalization and Socioeconomic Status on COVID-19 Case Counts and Healthcare Costs



Local health leaders and the Director General of the World Health Organization alike have observed that COVID-19 “does not discriminate.” Nevertheless, the disproportionate representation of people of low socioeconomic status among those infected resembles discrimination. This population-based retrospective cohort study examined COVID-19 case counts and publicly funded healthcare costs in Ontario, Canada, with a focus on marginalization.


Individuals with their first positive severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 test from January 1, 2020 to June 30, 2020, were linked to administrative databases and matched to negative/untested controls. Mean net (COVID-19–attributable) costs were estimated for 30 days before and after diagnosis, and differences among strata of age, sex, comorbidity, and measures of marginalization were assessed using analysis of variance tests.


We included 28 893 COVID-19 cases (mean age 54 years, 56% female). Most cases remained in the community (20 545, 71.1%) or in long-term care facilities (4478, 15.5%), whereas 944 (3.3%) and 2926 (10.1%) were hospitalized, with and without intensive care unit, respectively.


This study suggests that allocating resources unequally to marginalized individuals may improve equality in outcomes. It highlights the importance of reducing risk of COVID-19 infection among marginalized individuals to reduce overall costs and increase system capacity.


Douglas C. Cheung Karen E. Bremner Teresa C.O. Tsui Ruth Croxford Lauren Lapointe-Shaw Lisa Del Giudice Andrew Mendlowitz Nathan Perlis Reka E. Pataky Paulos Teckle Seraphine Zeitouny William W.L. Wong Beate Sander Stuart Peacock Murray D. Krahn Girish S. Kulkarni Carol Mulder

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