Researchers from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene found more than 30 percent African-American and Latino residents had antibodies against COVID-19.
Comparatively, about 15 percent of white residents had built up an immune response against the virus.
In addition, results showed about one-quarter of people living in the Big Apple were infected with COVID-19.
The team says that the findings affirm disparities reported in other studies and show how minority communities were disproportionately affected by COVID-19, especially following the first wave.
Researchers looked at coronavirus antibody levels among New York City residents between May 13, 2020 and July 21, 2020. Pictured: People register for Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines at the opening of a new vaccination site at Corsi Houses in Harlem, New York, January 15
About 35% of Hispanic New Yorkers and 33% of black New Yorkers tested positive for antibodies compared to 16% of white residents (right chart)
Frontline jobs with mostly minority employees, such as nursing care facilities and home health care service, were the sectors with the highest antibody rates (above)
For the study, published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, researchers looked at blood samples from more than 45,000 adult New York City residents.
The samples were taken between May 13 and July 21 of last year, immediately following the first wave of the pandemic.
Researchers found that antibody rates were highest among black and Hispanic residents and people in health care or essential worker industry sectors.
Hispanic New Yorkers had the highest antibody rate at about 35 percent and black New Yorkers were close behind with a rate of 33 percent.
Asian New Yorkers had a rate of 20 percent while white New Yorkers had the lowest antibody rate at 16 percent.
Overall, the study found between 23 percent and 24 percent of city residents contracted the virus during the spring 2020 surge.
Certain jobs were also more likely to have a higher percentage of workers test positive for antibodies.
Employees of nursing care facilities and home health care services had the highest rates, above 40 percent.
Additionally, grocery store workers, mail carriers and public transit workers also had high rates, all above 35 percent.
Dr Wafaa El-Sadr, a professor of epidemiology and medicine at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health who was not involved in the study, said the majority of workers in fields with high antibody rates are minorities, not whites.
White residents in New York are being vaccinated at higher rates than blacks and Hispanics with 44% receiving at least one shot compared 26% and 31%, respectively
‘[The data] show how frontline workers bore the brunt of the first wave of the pandemic,’ she told The New York Times.
‘These were the people who did not have the luxury of being able to work virtually.’
The findings were released as the mass vaccination effort across the United States, and in New York City, continues to pick up speed.
Despite rates of vaccine hesitancy falling in communities of color, white New Yorkers are still being vaccinated at higher rates.
According to city data, 44 percent of Caucasian residents have received at least one vaccine dose and 31 percent are fully vaccinated.
However, just 26 percent of black residents and 31 percent of Hispanic residents have received one dose and 17 percent and 20 percent – respectively – are fully vaccinated.