GUADALUPE, Arizona – A Hispanic immigrant who worked at a fast food restaurant in South Carolina is rushed to the hospital because she contracted COVID-19. A sick Honduran in Baltimore, without health insurance or permission to be in the country, avoids going to the doctor for two weeks, until she finally takes a taxi to a hospital and ends up with oxygen.
As the coronavirus enters the United States, it is wreaking havoc on Latino communities, from the suburbs of the nation’s capital to the agricultural fields of Florida, through the sprawling suburbs of Phoenix and elsewhere.
The epidemic has amplified the inequalities that many Latinos suffer from, such as jobs that expose them to one another, crowded living conditions, lack of insurance for medical expenses, distrust of the health system and a higher incidence of pre-existing diseases, such as diabetes. And many Latinos cannot afford to stay home.
“People just can’t afford to stop working,” said Mauricio Calvo, executive director of the Latino Memphis activist group in Tennessee.
In many areas, Hispanics account for a markedly high percentage of COVID-19 positive cases compared to other racial and ethnic groups.
About 65% of COVID cases in Chattanooga, Tennessee’s county are Latino, even though they make up just 6% of the population. Because many infected families live in the same house without having any option to move, the Chattanooga authorities are studying a plan to provide alternative accommodation in hotels or other places where people can be quarantined.
These disparities exist across the country.
Latinos account for 45% of coronavirus cases in North Carolina, where they are only 10% of the population, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. In the Latino and indigenous town of Guadalupe, Arizona, residents have tested positive at a rate four times higher than that of the county overall. The ZIP code with the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Maryland is predominantly Hispanic.
Honduran Arely Martínez, who now lives in Baltimore, waited two weeks to seek medical help after developing a fever and headache, not being able to breathe and losing her nose. Martínez had stayed home because he did not have insurance for medical expenses, his immigration status and misinformation about the pandemic, but he finally went to the hospital and tested COVID-19 positive.
He died run over in Caracas almost 101 years ago. Numerous miracles are attributed to him.
“She had no medical guidance, and other than that she was scared by people’s comments that when you go to the hospital they end up killing you,” said Martinez, who was hospitalized for two days worried about her three children who were being left alone when her husband I went out to look for work.
Her husband tested negative for the virus, but her sister, who was out looking for food, became ill. The couple’s children were not tested.
“In truth, they were the saddest moments of my life,” he said. “There was not a single moment or instant that I stopped asking God to give me the opportunity to live to see my children, hug them, take care of them.”
There is increasing evidence of the terrible havoc the coronavirus is wreaking on Latinos as researchers develop more advanced data analysis on COVID-19 and race.
This disparity among Latinos is similar to the national trend for African American deaths. An analysis by The Associated Press found that blacks account for 26% of deaths in nearly 40 states with detailed information on deaths, although they represent just 13% of the population.
Thousands of Colombians crowded the shops this Friday to take advantage of the tax advantages of the first day without VAT decreed by the Government to stimulate the economy, which alerted the health authorities who fear that the agglomerations will spread COVID-19.
The researchers are also pointing to another trend in the cases of Hispanics. Because Latinos are younger on average than white Americans and the virus kills older people at higher rates, the researchers are using “age-adjusted” figures to present a more accurate picture of the disparity in cases.
A study by the Brookings Institution this week examined federal figures and found that the age-adjusted COVID-19 death rate among African-Americans is 3.6 times higher than that of non-Hispanic white people. The age-adjusted death rate among Latinos is 2.5 times higher than that of white Americans. In a Harvard document that used a similar metric to determine “years of potential life lost,” it was concluded that Latinos lost 48,204 years, compared to 45,777 for African-Americans and 33,446 for non-Hispanic whites.
In Durham, North Carolina, Honduran Lidia Reyes and her husband were left without pay three weeks after she lost her job at a Subway establishment during the pandemic. The couple asked for help from loved ones and a local church to pay the rent and buy food for their son and daughter.
Reyes, 42, returned to work at the fast food chain and became ill; She believes she was infected the day she didn’t wear a mask or gloves at work.
“The children were upset,” said Reyes, who lives without permission in the country. “They always wanted to come into my room to be with me. We were all desperate in different ways, and I was depressed about everything that was happening. ”
Although he survived to tell his story, Reyes now has two fears: medical bills and the lack of seriousness with which some people in his community take the virus.
Due to Hispanics’ initial reluctance to test for coronavirus, authorities have run sites to test their communities, including some grocery stores.
In Guadalupe, Arizona, hundreds of people living with family members in small adobe houses lined up in the scorching sun on May 28 and 29 for free tests in the main plaza. 11% of them tested positive for COVID-19.
“We have families that do not have piped water, we have families that do not have electricity,” said Guadalupe Mayor Valerie Molina. “We have many members of the community who do not leave Guadalupe and we thought that the best way to do the test was to bring it to them.”
Molina issued a decree on Friday for masks to be worn in public areas of the community.
Health authorities and community leaders say testing Latinos is particularly important because it is a group that has been returning to work in large numbers and lacks benefits such as paid sick leave.
The passenger is apparently a well-known activist on social media.
“People continue to go to work before they really feel sick and get tested,” said Pilar Rocha-Goldberg, executive director of El Centro Hispano, an activist group in North Carolina.
Dr. Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, a family doctor in Durham and director of health equity at Duke University, said more needs to be done to help Hispanics get tested near where they live. And authorities are looking for alternatives to help villagers voluntarily confine themselves if they become ill or suspect they are infected and are awaiting test results. Chattanooga authorities are evaluating the possibility of providing direct financial assistance to families and assigning a unit of the county special team against COVID-19 to the problem of disparity among Latinos.
“It seems to me that this pandemic has highlighted the problems that have always plagued our community and that we have been fighting against,” said Dr. Michelle LaRue, senior administrator for health and social services at CASA, an organization that assists Latinos in Maryland. “You know: job security, language problems, health insurance and health services.”
Both Martinez and Reyes said they wish they hadn’t waited to see the doctor.
“People are dying in our community,” said Reyes. “I want people to understand and take the situation seriously.”
Six weeks after leaving the hospital, Martínez is still weak and has trouble sleeping.
“I shouldn’t have taken the risk because I also scared my children,” he added. “I couldn’t breathe, my kids were scared and I had no one to take care of them for me.”