Alarming racial disparities in who contracts and dies from coronavirus are playing out across the country, according to a new report. The New York Times has reviewed data from the Centers for Disease control that details 640,000 infections in more than a thousand U.S. counties.
Among the hardest-hitting findings is the fact that Latino and Black people are three times as likely to become infected with COVID-19 as their white neighbors. Latinos and Blacks are twice as likely to die from the virus.
It has been previously reported that racial and ethnic minorities were infected at greater rates. But the new federal data paints a more complete picture of the degree to which these groups are affected regardless of where they live.
The data is accounts for some – but not all – infections through the end of May 2020, as some states do not collect ethnic and racial data. The data does not include infections from the surge that began in June.
The report’s other findings include:
- The differences in infection rates become even more glaring when the high-risk, over-60 demographic is removed. According to the CDC data, Latino people between the ages of 40 and 59 have been infected at five times the rate of white people in the same age group.
- Of the Latino people who died, more than a quarter were younger than 60. Among white people who died, only 6 percent were that young.
- The racial disparities hold in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Among the 206 counties analyzed with at least 5,000 Latino residents, 178 have higher infection rates for Latino residents than for white residents.
- One of the most alarming hot spots is the wealthy enclave of Fairfax County in Northern Virginia. According to the Times, three times as many white people live there as Latinos. Yet through the end of May, four times as many Latino residents had tested positive for the virus, according to the CDC data.
Why Is This Happening?
We have reported previously that Latinos and Blacks often live in circumstances that make them more vulnerable to infection. They have front-line jobs that do not allow them to work from home. They are more likely to use public transportation. They are also more likely to live in crowded apartments or with multiple generations.
Census data from 2018 shows that 43 percent of Latino and Black workers have jobs that cannot be done remotely. Only one in four white workers have such jobs.
According to the American Housing Survey, Latino people are twice as likely to live in a “crowded dwelling” – defined as having less than 500 square feet per person – as white people.
There is also the matter of underlying conditions. According to the Times report, “The higher rate in deaths from the virus among Black and Latino people has been explained, in part, by a higher prevalence of underlying health problems, including diabetes and obesity. But the new CDC data reveals a significant imbalance in the number of virus cases, not just deaths — a fact that scientists say underscores inequities unrelated to other health issues.”
The Forgotten Factor: Language
Language barriers are a factor not often mentioned in these reports.
Most of the health information and health warnings related to coronavirus are in English. Only a portion of this information is translated into Spanish.
Likewise, many physicians have shifted to telehealth models that heavily favor English speakers.
We have noted previously that this creates “information vacuums,” in which community members circulate information that is not based on fact.
Taken together, limited-English speakers only receive a fraction of the information about COVID-19 that their English-speaking neighbors do.
LanguageLine Can Help
We are extremely concerned about minority health disparities, in particularly the disproportionate number of Latinos who are impacted by COVID-19. We have created a telehealth solution that provides on-demand interpretation in Spanish, as well as more than 240 additional languages.
In general, LanguageLine is able to get you connected to our team of 11,000 professional, on-demand interpreters via audio or video in 30 seconds or less. We can also translate and localize your written content. We do this 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
It all starts with a conversation. Please contact us via our website or by calling 800-752-6096. We would like to learn more about the language or cultural challenge you may be facing.