Hispanic immigrants of working age were 11 times more likely to die of Covid in California, study finds

A steady stream of research has shown that vulnerable communities in the United States are hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and a new study reveals a staggeringly huge inequality among a specific group in California.

Researchers from the University of Southern California found that Hispanic immigrants of working age, that is, ages 20 to 54, are 11.6 times more likely to die from the virus than US-born men and women who are not they are Hispanic. When looking at Hispanics of the same age who were born in the United States and abroad, the death rate was 8.5 times that of whites.

Among black men and women between the ages of 20 and 54, the death rate from coronavirus was nearly five times that of whites.

These figures are much higher than those from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which indicate that Hispanics in the US are 2.3 times more likely to die from the virus and blacks are 1.9 times more likely. than whites.

“We all know from the beginning of the pandemic, when the numbers were increasing, that there were differential impacts for different groups and we saw it especially for Black and Hispanic people,” said Erika Garcia, assistant professor of preventive medicine at Keck School. of Medicine of USC and the lead author of the study. “We have not been able to break it down by age groups like this. Although we thought there would be differences, we did not expect it to be that large. With a proportion, the disparities in the numbers are much greater among these younger older workers, in particular you see it. for both black and Hispanic people. “

Garcia and his co-authors said the study is a “call for state officials and public health departments to target vaccines and treatments to a demographic that comprises the backbone of the state’s agricultural and service industries,” according to a statement on the USC study. .

For the study published March 29 in the Annals of Epidemiology, researchers analyzed the death certificates of 10,200 people who died of COVID in California from February 1 to July 31, 2020. “Death certificate data, rather than data from the hospital system or insurance companies, it allowed researchers to capture COVID deaths among historically marginalized groups, including immigrants, who might be underrepresented in health or insurance systems, “the report reads. release.

The most frequently observed characteristics among people were age 65 and older, foreign-born, male, Hispanic, and high school education level or less.

Garcia said that when they looked more closely at the data by age group, the disparities were more significant among Asian / Pacific Islanders, blacks, Hispanics and younger whites.

While the study did not identify the reason for the disparities, Garcia said she and the other study authors hypothesized, based on other research, that blacks and Hispanics of working age are more likely to work in service industries than they require them to leave their homes on a daily basis, often. for jobs that expose them to large numbers of people. Hispanics are also more likely to work in agricultural jobs.

“Within each of those groups, there are differences in risks, and risk factors can be different between blacks and Hispanics and between men and women,” he said. “It has a lot to do with living conditions, and if there are several people living in a house. People who have to leave the house to work have a greater risk and the working conditions and having to take public transport also influence in it … The risk factor for COVID is higher if you have to come in contact with more people. “

Jon Jacobo, chair of the health committee of the San Francisco-based Latino Task Force, was not entirely surprised by the study’s results, although he said he was surprised by the disparity between Hispanics of working age and whites.

“The number appeared as something much higher than I had anticipated,” said Jacobo, “We know that the national average is 2.3 times higher. It is in line with the pain that we have been seeing on the front lines.”

Jacobo said the study highlights the pain Hispanics experience in agricultural jobs in the Central Valley that has been hit by the pandemic. The Task Force is assisting with the COVID effort in Planada, a small farming community of 4,500 people west of Merced.

“We have talked to people here who have tested positive for their farm jobs, and then they have to drive two hours and pay between $ 200 and $ 300 for a test to prove they are negative before going back to work,” he said. “Those have been some of the stories that have been shared with us and it has been painful for us to listen to them. You think about the disparities and inequities and the access to resources among these agricultural workers who support all the food that reaches our homes and tables. “.

He also noted that Hispanics have been most affected not by individual decisions, but by systems and policies that have been in place for a long time.

“It’s not that we don’t know how to wear masks,” he said. “It’s not that we don’t follow the CDC’s guidance. And it’s not that we don’t believe this is real because, in fact, we know it’s real more than anyone else because our community has been hit hard. It’s the legacy of racist policies that were promulgated with the founding of this country and continue to be perpetuated today. “

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