Story at a glance
- Latinx people are contracting and dying from COVID-19 at disproportionately high rates.
- At the same time, the unemployment rate in the Latinx community is one of the highest in the United States.
- Public health officials and community leaders are concerned about the resulting toll on the mental health of Latinx people.
The Latinx population in the United States is dying from COVID-19 at the second highest rate after the black population, according to the APM Research Lab. In New York City, a major epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., Latinx people make up 29 percent of the population, but 34 percent of total COVID-19 deaths — the highest rate across all populations. Still other states have not released coronavirus data broken down by race, leaving experts with an incomplete picture of the current situation.
But the impact of the pandemic extends far beyond the number of cases and deaths. In March, the unemployment rate for the Latinx population in the U.S. was 6 percent, second only to the unemployment rate for the black population and up 1.3 percent from 2019 — the greatest increase across all populations.
Those who are employed are often on the frontlines of the pandemic, in low-wage but high-risk jobs, at a time of heightened economic stress.
“[They’re facing] anxiety that they sometimes can not even attend to, because they’re feeling like their jobs, for some of these families, are the only jobs available and they don’t want to give up this job when they’re supporting their whole families,” said Margarita Alegria, a doctor at Harvard Medical School and chief of the Disparities Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
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Many of the calls she receives from these workers are late at night, after the rest of their family has fallen asleep, because they don't want to burden their families with their concerns. Some are also hesitant or unable to access government resources and other available support due to fear of exposing themselves or family members to immigration authorities.
“This is having an effect in reporting domestic abuse, it's also [having an effect] in terms of even going to medical facilities to get testing, because they fear the information is going to be used against them,” Alegria said.
She has also heard reports of landlords evicting undocumented people over coronavirus concerns, adding “layer upon layer of disparities.” Even after the coronavirus pandemic ends, many of these stressors will continue to exact a toll on people’s mental health, Alegria said, stressing the importance of psychological and social considerations in public health policy.
“We may not have been prepared for COVID-19, but we should be prepared for the post-coronavirus effects on [people’s] mental health,” she said.
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