Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Covid-19 Hits Latinos Hardest in Charlotte and NC

Every day, I check the Covid-19 data for North Carolina, and every few days Mecklenburg County (where Charlotte is) releases its own data. Last month local news pointed out that the Latino population was being hit disproportionately hard, and that trend has accelerated.

At the state level, as of June 9, 42% of all cases were Latinos (which currently translates into 10,634 cases) but only 7% of deaths. They are 9.6% of the total state population.

In Mecklenburg County as of June 7, Latinos accounted for 37% of all cases and 6.2% of deaths. They are 13.6% of the population. In short, they are less affluent so more likely to get it, but younger so less likely to die from it. For a while, the county has included this observation in their data summary:
More than a third of reported cases are Hispanic – most of whom are younger adults. The high number of reported cases among young Hispanics over the last several weeks remains a significant concern. As previously noted, some factors influencing this trend include: Targeted testing occurring in neighborhoods with lower access to care, some of which have larger Hispanic populations; 
Higher proportions of Hispanics working in essential jobs that make social distancing difficult; 
Significant household spread among large families; and 
Pre-existing disparities in other social and economic determinants of health, like poverty.

MCPH continues to expand outreach to Hispanic members of our community, including increased dissemination of the outreach toolkit in Spanish for community partners, setting up targeted outreach to Hispanic owned- and serving-businesses, and partnering with local organizations and media outlets to spread key prevention messages.
There is a real class divide here that I haven't seen play out with the flu or any other past contagious outbreak. I think there is a push from middle-class whites to reopen in no small because they don't know anyone who has contracted the virus. They only detect it indirectly when, for example, there is an outbreak at a meatpacking plant and then there is a brief shortage of meat at the store.

There are no easy answers here. Outreach is certainly critical, but to really address the issue we would need state recognition of undocumented immigrants as deserving of unemployment insurance and other kinds of benefits. We would also need generous sick leave for everyone. People who live payheck-to-paycheck will inevitably work even with symptoms because they have no alternative. 


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