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Sharp Health News

Why COVID-19 is heavily affecting Latinos

Aug. 20, 2020

Couple at Sharp Chula Vista Hospital with service dog
As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to rise in San Diego County, there is clear evidence of which community members are being hit the hardest. While Latinos make up 34% of San Diego County’s population, they comprise 62% of total positive coronavirus cases and 45% of deaths, according to county officials. The disproportionate impact among Latino communities can be attributed to several factors that increase their risk.

  1. Greater chance for having underlying health conditions
    Preexisting health conditions can increase the risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Latino and Hispanic people are more likely to be diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, putting them at higher risk of experiencing serious complications — possibly even requiring hospitalization — if they become infected with the coronavirus. These underlying health conditions can reduce the efficiency of a person’s immune system and ability to fight the virus.

  2. Access to health care
    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Latinos and other racial and ethnic groups are more likely to be uninsured than non-Hispanic whites, and may not have access to testing and public health services. Some Latinos may also be hesitant to seek proper treatment and care due to lack of transportation, ability to take time off from work, communication and cultural barriers, and child care.

  3. Education
    Misinformation is more likely to spread when people are fearful, anxious and uncertain. This is why it is especially important that the correct information about preventing COVID-19 and recognizing the signs and symptoms be equally distributed throughout the region. The County of San Diego has COVID-19 updates and information available in Spanish on its website.

  4. Essential occupation
    The pandemic has asked people working in public transportation, sanitation, grocery stores and agriculture to continue working to keep our economy operational while people in other jobs are able to work from home. The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) reports that Latino employees make up the highest percentage of the essential workforce in building and cleaning services (65%), grocery and drug stores (44%), and child care and social services (39%). While most Latinos do not have the economic luxury of working from home or skipping a paycheck, they are exposing themselves to potential illness every time they clock in to work.

  5. Multigenerational housing
    Social distancing and self-isolation can be nearly impossible when it comes to multiple family members, especially older adults, all living under the same household. If one family member gets the coronavirus, they are putting their entire family at risk for exposure and can cause their household to isolate for up to two weeks.
Dr. Andres Smith, medical director of Emergency Services at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, says, “Persistent communication about what the risks are and what you can do to prevent COVID-19 are very important. We are still in a pandemic and we need to continue to take preventive measures and not let our guard down.”

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