The fatal link between COVID-19 and Latino and Black Communities

Very little progress seems to have been made half a year into the pandemic. People nationwide are complaining about appointments being overbooked or waiting hours to get tested. And this can get even harder for the poorer neighborhoods, frequently located far from middle-class areas where most chain pharmacies and urgent care clinics are found.

“Minority groups”, a term that includes people of color from a wide variety of backgrounds, have historically been compelled to work in what are now known as ‘essential jobs’ where they receive low wages and perpetuate their poverty context. Long-standing systemic inequalities in health, such as access to healthcare and utilization, have exacerbated the risk of getting infected and dying from COVID-19. This not only increases their own exposure to the virus, but also causes a higher susceptibility within their families due to multi-generational households and low quality housing conditions.

It is important to note that some people in these communities may be undocumented or may be part of mixed-status families, making them reluctant to sharing who they have been in contact with or even prevent them from seeking healthcare services for fear of being deported. Other relevant social determinants to keep present are discrimination, educational and income gaps, are interrelated and have an enormous impact on the quality-of-life outcomes and health of said communities.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a relief program created to boost the economy by extending the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for state and local governments, providing weekly unemployment benefits for qualified individuals and new funds for coronavirus testing. The US Senate was divided over the CARES Act, but the House of Representatives just passed the bill on October 1, 2020, ensuring that US citizens are receiving direct and fast relief in the wake of the coronavirus.

The real question is, will this make the US be back up on its feet? The US will soon hold its Presidential elections and the politicization of the virus has shed light on the insufficient grasp of the basic public health response this pandemic required. It has painted a national picture of how minorities continue to be the most affected and the least assisted.

We need to remind ourselves that systemic racism persists and intensifies in extreme situations. It is necessary to make health information more understandable and compelling in order to outreach these unprotected, vulneralized communities. The US needs to be able to provide accessible public health for all, regardless of color, religion, occupation, background, or origin, as vaccines are a solution well down the line and a second wave of the virus outbreak threatens. It is fundamental to understand where the country is failing to serve its less fortunate communities so as to prepare what is yet to come.

Unless the response is driven by good science, suffering will continue to hit these communities.