DOOBY’S Korean Inspired Cafe,” Elvert Barnes Photography

September 16, 2020; NBC News and the Times of San Diego

According to a study released by the UCLA Health Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture (CESLAC), there was a fivefold increase of coronavirus-related deaths among all Latino age groups between May and August. Among young Latino youth (ages 18–34), the death rate increased by 473 percent. Nearly half of all patients who died of COVID in California—as many as 320,694—were Latino.

UCLA experts believe the high death rates are mostly due to greater risks taken by a population that make up most of the “essential workforce” in California. The UCLA report mentions that unlike “high-profile essential workers like such as physicians, nurses, first responders, etc., the unsung essential workers are farm workers who feed California, truck drivers who transport the state’s goods, meat and vegetable packers, the grocery industry’s shelf stockers and checkout clerks, construction workers, automobile mechanics, gardeners and landscapers, bus drivers, office cleaners, nursing home attendants, and others who toil day and night to keep California functioning.”

Faced with such ominous numbers, many Latino organizations are trying to take control of the situation by replacing the lack of governmental policies targeted towards their population. In San Diego County, for example, a coalition of 10 community-based organizations with deep ties to the Latino community have joined forces to create the San Diego Latino Health Coalition. In San Diego, Latinos account for 62.8 percent of all COVID-19 infections and 47.7 percent of all deaths, although they only make up 34 percent of the population. According to the Times of San Diego, “Latinos in San Diego County are more likely to work in front-line jobs, ride public transit, are more likely to have underlying conditions, and are more likely to live in multigenerational homes according to demographic data from [public planning, transportation, and research agency] SANDAG.”

The San Diego Latino Health Coalition has now received a $750,000 grant from the county to begin an innovative strategy of getting Latinos tested and treated. They are also using preventative measures such as giving better access to health centers, creating extensive bilingual educational material, and providing health kits for individual families to include reusable masks, hand sanitizer, thermometers, and disinfectant supplies. Additionally, they want to apply similar innovative monitoring tactics used by the White Mountain Apache Tribe, which, as NPQ previously reported, teaches people to measure oxygen levels on people, even if they don’t know they are ill, for early treatment and to prevent hospitalizations.

The coalition also recently partnered with the San Diego County Mexican Consulate to guarantee space in the consulate’s downtown building for COVID-19 testing. They hope this will allow for Mexican migrants to get tested. County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher was quoted on the San Diego Union-Tribune that they are “trying to remove any barrier that might be an obstacle in the way of making someone feel comfortable getting tested. No one should have to travel far to access confidential testing services.”

Their combined efforts will hopefully be able to curb the dire effects of the pandemic on this largely invisible population.—Sofia Jarrin-Thomas