Despite what appears in the headlines, the Coronavirus pandemic is not over, and the country continues to succumb to one of the worst scenarios in its history.
With more than six million cases, nearly 200,000 deaths, and no consistent protocols in place, the United States is currently one of the worst-handled countries in the world’s health crisis.
For communities of color, the situation is doubly complicated.
As a Pew Research Center study warned in late June, the country’s reality is divided into political ideologies. Republicans are convinced that we had turned the page on the crisis, and Democrats are increasingly anxious about their future.
In between, and without time to read the long pages of political debates, Latinos and African Americans in the U.S. see the incidence of the disease and the rate of contagion increase among their families.
In California, more specifically in Marin County, north of San Francisco, systemic failures — between access to information and health coverage — have left hundreds of thousands of Latino families between a rock and a hard place, battling contagion and the need to continue working to overcome poverty.
As reported by NPR, about 3% of the county’s coronavirus tests are positive. In comparison, in the most densely populated Latino neighborhoods, the positive rate averages 20%, and has risen to 40% as Dr. Matt Willis, the county’s health director, explained to the media.
“The roots of this outbreak go so far beyond our health care interventions and are really rooted in how we’ve organized our economy,” Dr. Willis says. “People who live in the Canal are three times more likely to live in poverty than the rest of Marin County and are 15 times more likely to share a room with two or more other people.”
At the state level, a new study published by the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture, which is part of UCLA Health, found a five-fold increase in coronavirus mortality rates among working-age Latinos in the last three months, according to NBC.
From May 11 to Aug. 11, researchers looked at the progression of coronavirus-related deaths across Latino communities in three different working-age populations: Young adults (ages 18-34); early middle age (35-49); and late middle age (50-69).
While COVID-19 deaths are burning their way through all Latino working-age populations, the death rate is highest for late-middle-aged Latinos. At 54.73 deaths per 100,000 people, their death rate is about 25 times higher than the death rate among young adults, which saw a 2.12 mortality rate. Early middle-aged Latinos saw a 14.23 coronavirus death rate, nearly four times higher than the late-middle-aged population.
“Anything that threatens the stability of our economy, like COVID-19’s inroads into the working-age population, needs to be taken seriously,” said David E. Hayes-Bautista, a health policy professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health who co-authored the report, in a statement. “The virus is falling on the working-age population, and the young Latino population is disproportionately represented in this demographic.”
According to The Mercury News, it appears that the increase in infections and deaths within the Latinx community, especially in densely populated Latinx states such as California, is related to the “impossible choices” that the pandemic is forcing families to make.
Going to work with or without symptoms, returning home not knowing if you have been infected, or even rethinking family dynamics in large households are just the tip of the iceberg.
The lack of mass testing, early response, and follow-up of cases make it impossible for families to take action. Similarly, unfounded fears by the government of the risk of deportation and the lack of bilingual information about the disease make up the deadly recipe for the Latino community in the United States.