For Hispanics, inequality is deadly
Hispanics are among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Preliminary data has exposed the deadliness of inequality in the U.S. A Guardian analysis recently found that in some parts of the country Hispanics are experiencing a rate of infections and hospitalizations up to three times that of white Americans.
Places like, New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago are suggesting Latino and immigrant communities are disproportionally affected by coronavirus – Latinos and other minorities make up a larger share of cases despite being a smaller share of the population.
Even before the pandemic, Hispanic communities were less likely to be insured and have access to health care and more likely to have underlying conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
COVID-19 has brutally demonstrated the depths of inequality and the consequences communities of color shoulder. Those communities, with limited access to adequate, affordable health care are struggling now more than ever.
President Trump’s lack of leadership has allowed for insufficient COVID-19 testing; prolonging the reopening of our state and local economies. In Texas, 19 percent of Hispanics know someone who might be ill, but do not have access to testing.
Commercial testing is available, but cost prohibitive for many. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) needs to step-up their game and administer tests in parts of the country with significant minority populations, like in South Texas.
Economically, COVID-19 has threatened the survival of Hispanic businesses and harmed personal finances. Latino Decisions reports 35 percent of Hispanic households have experienced a lay-off and half say they or someone in their household have taken a pay cut or lost a job – or both – because of the COVID-19 pandemic, compared with a third of all U.S. adults.
Accurate reporting on people impacted by COVID-19 remains an ongoing issue especially for minorities.
Many states, including Texas, have been slow to report the racial breakdown of confirmed COVID-19 cases or not reporting them at all.
From those states that have offered data, information is often limited. Without comprehensive reports that include demographic and geographic breakdowns, Congress and the federal government is flying blind. Data released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention on April 20, 2020 leaves over 60 percent of total COVID-19 cases as race unspecified.
I fear that we will continue to see a rise in COVID-19 cases and fatalities as many Hispanics serve as frontline and essential workers where teleworking is not an option. Hispanics are more likely to be exposed to COVID-19 while working, due to a significant number of minorities working in the agriculture, transportation, food services, energy and health care sectors.
Members of the Hispanic community face other hurdles at a higher rate including: an inadequate supply of communication resources, language or educational barriers, and a lack of high-speed internet or telephone services that can prevent people from learning the best ways to stay safe during the pandemic.
The current administration’s propagation of discriminatory policies along with the president’s continuous briefings of misinformation and conspiracy theories may also lead Hispanics to disregard public health guidance from medical experts and local authorities.
As this pandemic continues, we need to prioritize those who are most vulnerable to this disease, especially those in minority and Hispanic communities. Transparent and accurate reporting of COVID-19 data, the dissemination of critical public information and access to health care is crucial in our efforts to overcome this pandemic.
Vicente Gonzalez represents the 15th District of Texas.
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