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Latinos die and see unemployment rise

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UNITED STATES TODAY

SAN FRANCISCO – In a city where 16% of the population is Latin American, doctor Alicia Fernandez is alarmed by the overwhelming number of Latino patients she sees at Zuckerberg General Hospital in San Francisco.

Fernandez accuses the high cost of housing in the Bay Area, which finds many poor Latinos crammed into small apartments. “Sometimes it’s big families, but other times it’s just a group of adults trying to make ends meet,” she said. “It is so difficult to isolate and quarantine people. “

In Nashville, school teacher Bobbi Negròn has paid particular attention to the devastation that has occurred in the lives of his fellow Latinos. When Negròn calls to see how some of his elementary students are doing, parents sometimes ask him to stop calling because they have no more minutes on their cell plans.

In New York, a grim tale tells the story: Latinos make up 29% of the population but represent 39% of those who succumbed to COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus.

Workers wearing personal protective equipment bury bodies in a trench on Hart Island in New York’s Bronx neighborhood. A disproportionate number of coronavirus deaths in New York have struck the city’s Latin American community. (Photo: John Minchillo, AP)

Latinos in the United States are ill-prepared for their battle against the coronavirus, a crisis that threatens to leave many sick and destitute in this already vulnerable population, according to a new report. Due to a combination of factors – including working in low-wage front-line jobs and lack of savings and health insurance – Latinos bear a disproportionate burden during this crisis.

Their plight, activists say, will have a ripple effect as the nation attempts to reopen.

“We are the fastest growing segment in the United States, so what happens to us will have an impact,” says Priscilla Gonzalez,Campaign Director of Mijente, a national social justice organization that, with the Labor Council for the Advancement of Latin America, explores the plight of Latinos in “The Impact of COVID-19 on Latinos in the United States “

Across the country, only 49% of Latinos have access to private health care, the lowest of all demographic groups, the report said. Some 70% have no assets in a retirement account.

Meanwhile, Latinos are strongly represented on farms and in stores and warehouses, essential businesses that remain open during the virus’s closure. These jobs often find workers grouped together or facing the public without appropriate safety equipment.

Workers harvest crops in a California field. Latinos make up a large percentage of the country’s agricultural workers, a population that may be particularly at risk for the coronavirus since workers work in tight quarters and few have adequate personal protective equipment. (Photo: rightdx / Getty Images)

Latino workers are a vital part of an economy that depends on both legal and undocumented labor to move goods across the country, say activists. Their failure to survive in post-coronavirus America promises to have incalculable financial impact.

“We wanted to highlight these facts not only to call for long-term structural changes to the system, but also to request immediate relief so that this community can survive this crisis,” says Gonzalez.

When the coronavirus first started covering the nation, politicians and experts noted that a virus does not discriminate between victims. But the widening gap in income inequality in the country has in fact led many minority groups to pay a higher price.

“It’s almost as if the Last Judgment is coming”: Coronavirus layoffs disproportionately hurt black and Latino workers

Various reports have shown that African-Americans make up a disproportionate percentage of deaths from COVID-19 since the virus is particularly ruthless for people with lung disease, who afflict blacks in far greater numbers than white people. Black workers are also strongly represented in the transportation and food supply sectors, which remain open.

Blacks make up around 12% of the American population, while Hispanics make up around 17%. But the suffering of these groups during the coronavirus pandemic goes far beyond these percentages.

Health workers and security staff are waiting for patients at a COVID-19 test center on Monday, where the coronavirus epidemic is wreaking havoc in a predominantly black area of ​​St. Louis. (Photo: Jeff Roberson / The Associated Press)

In San Francisco, Fernandez said the hospital normally sees about 30% of Latino patients. “We estimate that 80% of people hospitalized for COVID-19 are Latinos,” she said.

For many Latinos who already live day to day, the threat of contracting the virus comes just after the fear of falling into abject poverty, says Orson Aguilar, executive director of the UnidosUS Action Fund, a political rights organization and civilians.

“There are two ways in which we are negatively affected, one because of the many Latin jobs that are putting us at risk right now, and two by not being able to access unemployment insurance in many cases. or any aspect of CARES. “He said, referring to the Coronavirus Aid, Rescue and Economic Security Act, a $ 2 trillion federal stimulus package intended to help big business and workers together.

“CARES intrinsically excludes 20% of Latinos by requiring that programs have a social security number,” says Aguilar, a nod to Latino business owners who operate without this federal data because of their immigration status. About 21% of Latinos are not American citizens.

“Immigrants and Latinos keep Americans alive and fed because a nation is suffering, yet many cannot benefit from any of the relief efforts that have been presented so far,” he said.

Aguilar applauds this week’s decision by California Governor Gavin Newsom to provide $ 125 million in relief checks to undocumented workers in the state. About 2.2% of the state’s 40 million people are undocumented.

But, Aguilar, adds, “aside from these great creative efforts, they pale in comparison to the kind of relief offered by federal unemployment insurance and small business relief loans, and that’s what Latinos owe have access to survive this crisis. “

California Governor Gavin Newsom visits the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. The governor recently announced a $ 125 million fund to help undocumented Californians, many of whom are Latino, weather the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Rich Pedroncelli, AP)

As co-founder of social justice group Workers’ Dignity, Negròn is particularly alarmed at how workers in the Nashville area face a lack of protective equipment and cannot be tested when they start to show symptoms of the virus.

“Many Latinos, especially undocumented migrants, do not see a penny of the stimulus, so they are looking for work even if there is really nothing at the moment,” she said. “A man in my neighborhood drives his lawn mower in his van, asking people if they need to mow their yard. “

For Negròn and others in the Latin American community of Nashville, the coronavirus has long since ceased to be a simple health crisis.

“Our children are really poor and their parents are at best of the working class,” she says. “We are a strong people. But something has to change. “

Follow the USA TODAY national correspondent Marco della Cava: @marcodellacava

More: Black, Latino and Native American health problems can cause coronavirus to ravage communities

Read or share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/04/18/coronavirus-latinos-disproportionately-dying-losing-jobs/5149044002/

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