BACKGROUND: Coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) is a growing pandemic with an increasing death toll that has been linked to various comorbidities as well as racial disparity. However, the specific characteristics of these at-risk populations are still not known and approaches to lower mortality are lacking. METHODS: We conducted a retrospective electronic health record data analysis of 25,326 subjects tested for COVID-19 between 2/25/20 and 6/22/20 at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital, a tertiary health care center in the racially diverse Southern U.S. The primary outcome was mortality in COVID-19-positive subjects and the association with subject characteristics and comorbidities was analyzed using simple and multiple linear logistic regression. RESULTS: The odds ratio of contracting COVID-19 was disproportionately high in Blacks/African-Americans (OR 2.6; 95%CI 2.19-3.10; p<0.0001) and in subjects with obesity (OR 1.93; 95%CI 1.64-2.28; p<0.0001), hypertension (OR 2.46; 95%CI 2.07-2.93; p<0.0001), and diabetes (OR 2.11; 95%CI 1.78-2.48; p<0.0001). Diabetes was also associated with a dramatic increase in mortality (OR 3.62; 95%CI 2.11-6.2; p<0.0001) and emerged as an independent risk factor in this diverse population even after correcting for age, race, sex, obesity and hypertension. Interestingly, we found that metformin treatment was independently associated with a significant reduction in mortality in subjects with diabetes and COVID-19 (OR 0.33; 95%CI 0.13-0.84; p=0.0210). CONCLUSION: Thus, these results suggest that while diabetes is an independent risk factor for COVID-19-related mortality, this risk is dramatically reduced in subjects taking metformin, raising the possibility that metformin may provide a protective approach in this high risk population.