COVID-19’s Burden on Latinx Communities
United Church of Christ – Wider Church Ministries
Humanitarian Development Team
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Daily Briefing
Barbara T. Baylor, MPH – Temporary Health Liaison
COVID-19’s Burden on Hispanic/Latino(a)/Latinx Communities
According to the Centers for Disease Control (1), the impact of COVID-19 on different racial and ethnic groups is still emerging. Health differences among racial and ethnic groups often are due to differences in economic and social conditions. Some racial and ethnic groups already were in crisis prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Office of Minority Health, Department of Health and Human Services (2) defines “Hispanic/Latino” as including any person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race. According to U.S. Census data (3) the Hispanic population reached a record 59.9 million in 2018, up 1.2 million over the previous year.
In “The Virus Doesn’t Discriminate but Governments Do: Latinos Disproportionately Hit by Coronavirus” (The Guardian (4)), Latinos across the United States are getting sick disproportionately from COVID-19. In some areas of the United States they are dying from COVID-19 at up to three times the rate as non-Hispanic whites.
New data trickling out of cities and states are making increasingly clear the virus’s unequal toll on people of color:
* In New York City, data show that COVID-19 is killing Latino people at 1.6 times the rate that it is killing non-Hispanic white people.
* In Utah, Latinos are being infected and hospitalized at three times the rate of non-Hispanic white people. Whereas Latinos make up 14 percent of the state’s population, 29 percent of the patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the state identify as Latino. ·
* In Oregon, Latinos account for 22 percent of COVID-19 cases where demographic information was available. Latinos make up 13 percent of Oregon’s population.
* In New Jersey, Latinos make up 19 percent of the population, but nearly 30 percent of COVID-19 patients in that state identify as Hispanic.
* In Washington state, 25 percent of those infected are Latino while they make up only 13 percent of the state’s total population.
The Impact of Covid-19 on Latinos in the U.S. (5) is a joint effort between the Mijente Support Committee and The Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. This report shares compelling social, cultural and economic reasons why the U.S. Hispanic/Latino(a)/Latinx population is positioned to be among the hardest hit by the pandemic. The following is a brief look at some of these reasons.
COVID-19 is a public health crisis and an economic one. The COVID-19 virus is disproportionately impacting the Latino population because of deep-rooted social and economic inequities.
26 million Latinos are in the U.S. workforce and more than 24 percent of them work in low-wage jobs. Latino and immigrant workers continue to be among America’s most vulnerable workers and the ongoing drivers of the U.S. economy, working in what are now considered to be “essential” jobs as farmworkers, grocery and restaurant workers, medical workers, cleaners, delivery workers and caretakers in communities across the United States. Many of these jobs put them on the frontlines of exposure to COVID-19 infection.
Due to the economic fallout from COVID-19, many have taken pay cuts or lost jobs. While 30 million people in the United States filed for unemployment compensation between mid-March and the end of April (6), those Hispanics/Latinos/Latinx who are undocumented are excluded from receiving unemployment benefits.
Work-Related Illnesses, Injuries and Fatalities
Latino workers suffer alarmingly high rates of job-related fatalities, disabling injuries, and chronic illnesses as a result of their work in high-risk occupations. This goes hand in hand with exploitative workplace conditions where workers are denied adequate protections and training.
Increasingly, the demand for workers in rural meat-processing plants is being met by the nation’s growing Hispanic/Latino population. 44 percent of these workers are Latino and 25 percent are African American, according to an analysis by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (7). In the wake of increasingly high numbers of people being infected with COVID-19 at meat processing plants and the fact that the President mandated that plants reopen, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has urged the Trump administration to investigate working conditions for meat processing workers and issue a temporary emergency safety standard.
Health Disparities and Access to Health Care
The HHS Office of Minority Health (8) notes that Hispanics/Latinos have the highest uninsured rates of any racial or ethnic group within the United States. In 2017, the Census Bureau reported that 49 percent of Hispanics had private insurance coverage, as compared to 75.4 percent for non-Hispanic whites. The overall health of Latino people is often determined by factors such as language and cultural barriers, lack of access to preventative care and lack of health insurance.
According to the CDC (9) Latino people’s health is significantly affected by obesity, asthma, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), underlying risk factors for COVID-19 that affect respiratory systems. Latino communities are wary of seeking medical care due to a lack of health insurance, and in many cases fear that going to a hospital will expose them to immigration authorities.
Criminal Legal System
Latino are twice as likely to be sent to jail as non-Hispanic white people, and Latino men are four times more likely to go to prison in comparison to non-Hispanic white men (10). There, they are facing some of the most inhumane and dangerous conditions during this pandemic.
The BBC reported that as of April 30, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (ICE) confirmed 490 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in an estimated population of 31,000 immigration detainees in detention centers, jails and prisons across the United States (11). Only 1,030 detainees had been tested up until the same date.
Immigration detainees’ prospects are not good if they continue to be confined to close quarters with hundreds of others.
The report The Impact of Covid-19 on Latinos in the U.S. concludes with this sobering remark: “We can project that it will take Latinos a decade at minimum to recover from the effects of this pandemic. Recovery will require a longer timeline if no fundamental and permanent changes are made to the current criminal justice, immigration, health and economic systems. If this country continues to choose corporations and the extremely wealthy over the well-being of its people, of which Latinos make up 20 percent, we will be doomed to repeat the systematic failures that led us to the depths of this public health crisis.”