COVID-19 Has Proven To Be Deadly, Especially for the Latino Community by Brittany Zendejas

(Illustration by @iggdeh)

While Miguel Hastorga speaks, he constantly has to clear his throat, trying to suppress the fits of coughing that still linger from the virus. His sentences are slow and thoughtful. Before the positive test results, every member of the family had tried their best to be cautious and clean. Then his wife tested positive for Coronavirus on October 17th in San Pablo, Calif. 

After she was diagnosed, the family of six tried their best to quarantine each other but the family’s size and small living quarters proved to be a challenge. Within a couple of days, they all tested positive. 

“We tried to keep her alone,” said Hastorga. “But once we all started showing symptoms we knew we were sick.” 

The coronavirus is disproportionately affecting the Latino population and people of color. Why? Health inequity, immigration, work, and household size are at the heart of this issue.

The average household size is 4.6 for Latinos, which makes it considerably harder to create space and quarantine when someone in the household tests positive for COVID. 

Data published on August 27, 2020, in Health Affairs showed that household size and exposure to the virus played a key role in how families quarantined

Xochitl Castaneda, founding director of Health Initiatives of Americas, spoke about the long-standing health inequity that targets Latinos. 

“COVID exacerbated the issue,” said Castaneda. “What COVID has exposed is the big historical structural disparity that exists and the very high vulnerability of this population.” 

After Miguel’s wife tested positive, she was rushed to the hospital with chest pain and worsening symptoms where she stayed for eight days.

“As soon as she was released she started getting better but slowly,” said Hastorga.

A recent report released by the Center for Disease Control states that hospitalization was 6.5 times higher among Latino or Hispanic communities than that of their white counterparts. 

The U.S Census reports that 39% of residents in California are Latino, but that does not account for the undocumented population. California is home to two million undocumented immigrants. There are language barriers, cultural beliefs, and socio-economic status that adds to health inequity.

Many frontline workers are Latino, as well as essential workers. When the pandemic started, their jobs continued on because they were a neccesity for the country and for their families. 

Daisy Murguia’s family had been cautious for the last eight months, ensuring that they had minimal contact with anyone. Her brother, Caesar was the first to show symptoms. 

He is an essential worker and has been working since the start of the pandemic. The family immediately decided to quarantine for two weeks. 

“We all went to our separate areas of the apartment but it’s small,” said Murguia. “When my brother started getting symptoms two weeks after that, I feel it was when he was most contagious so we really had to stay home.” 

Murguia and her family members decided to wait to get tested initially upon noticing symptoms. 

In Rialto, San Bernardino there are numerous testing sites, however, the closest drive-thru testing facility is about 15 miles out. The other testing sites are held in buildings that require someone to physically walk in and wait in a line. 

“There are free places to go but only one is a drive-thru,” said Murguia. “I don’t want to go into an auditorium and get people sick or expose them.” 

In Los Angeles 48% of the population is Latino, however, they count for 52% of the death rate. In San Bernardino, there have been 1,129 deaths and 93,019 confirmed cases.

The numbers continue to rise daily for the Latino population in California. 

While the Hastorga family quarantined, their process for getting better was simple: they stayed home and hoped for the symptoms to pass.

“We were constantly checking in on each other,” said Hastorga. “Family members from my wife’s side and my side brought us groceries.” 

However, the family is still unsure where his wife contracted the virus from. Hastorga wonders if they had been able to quarantine separately had they not all tested positive for it. 

“We took the virus seriously before we all got sick because of our high-risk family member,” said Hastorga. “I get upset because I know that people aren’t taking it seriously because it hasn’t affected them personally.” 

Castaneda also said that the immigrant population contributed to the high rates because of lack of healthcare and the high unemployment rates. However, she is hopeful that a change is on the horizon. 

“I am a dreamer and my dream is that the upcoming administration will pay attention to this population.”

Brittany Zendejas is a freelance journalist. She is dedicated to telling stories about the Latino community which helped shape her into the writer and person she is today. Brittany is currently pursuing a Masters in Journalism at the University of California in Berkeley.

Daniel is an award winning copywriter based in the U.S and illustrates articles, exclusively, for progressive journals, magazines, and newspapers under the pseudonym @iggdeh which you can follow on Instagram.

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