Arkansas, which, like much of the South, escaped the worst pandemic in the spring and had no home birth, has nearly doubled the number of cases in the past three weeks as more companies reopened. No community has been hit harder than Latino and Marshallese workers in the northwestern state.
“We were not prepared to deal with this pandemic at all, but we were especially unprepared to protect these minority groups,” said Greg Leding, a democratic senator representing the area.
Latinos make up about 8 percent of the state’s population, but a quarter of coronavirus cases. Marshallese and other Pacific Islanders make up less than half a percent of the population – and 7 percent of the cases.
Mireya Reith, executive director of the Arkansas United immigrant advocacy group, hopes recent bet from a CDC team to investigate inequalities will be a turning point. Inadequate testing and outreach of Arkansans colors at an early stage, combined with a large number of essential workers who were unable to stay at home, caused the spread.
“We were not counted. No data has been collected. No information was available in other languages, “she said. The outbreak, she added, “was preventable.”
The Arkansas health department confirmed that only five out of about 200 contact tracers speak Spanish and only one Marshallese – although they will be hiring hundreds of additional tracers soon, some bilingual. In addition, phone alerts that went out as part of contact tracking were all in English until a Spanish option was added on June 6. There are still no reports in Marshallese isolating a population that largely migrated here after U.S. nuclear tests flooded their homeland. in radiation. The five-person CDC team sent to the state plans to share its findings soon on how to curb spread “specifically within the Spanish and Marshallese populations,” the state health department told POLITICO.
Melisa Laelan, executive director of the Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese, surveyed nearly 1,000 Marshallese households and found that more than 80 percent had identified a family member as an essential worker. More than half had a family member with diabetes, obesity or high blood pressure, conditions that increase the risk of death from Covid-19. In addition to their vulnerability, Marshallese were cut off from Medicaid in the 1990s.
“I had to leave Facebook because I couldn’t bear to see that we lost so many important members of the community,” said Laelan.
In Florida, where Trump goes on Friday for a drug trafficking briefing, there are more than 220,000 cases. Coronavirus deaths in severe Latin American counties in Florida happen twice as fast as in other counties. In Texas, where Vice President Mike Pence visited last week, deaths in disproportionate Latin American counties occur 1.2 times faster than other counties, according to an amFar analysis.
Two Houston public hospitals serving majority, largely uninsured, populations feel acute racial inequality. Nearly two-thirds of Coronavirus patients in the intensive care unit of Ben Taub and Lyndon B. Johnson hospitals are Hispanics, said Dr. Esmaeil Porsa, CEO of Harris County Health System. Most provinces talk about an infection curve; Porsa said Harris County is a “straight line.”
Business is also reaching record levels in some Democrat-led states, most notably California. But the different political sensitivity did not protect people of color.
Los Angeles County is a large, racially mixed area. In the largely white Santa Monica Mountains, The number of cases per 100,000 increased sixfold from mid-April to late June. But the infection rate was even higher in most cities in Black and Latino, according to an analysis by Advancement Project California for POLITICO.
In San Jose Hills, where Latinos make up about 85 percent of the population, the number of cases per 100,000 was 143 times greater than in the second week of April. In Willowbrook, one of the LA County communities with the highest percentage of black residents, the number of infections per 100,000 in the third week of June was 22 times greater than early April.
Muddled messaging from above
As cases spread in the south and southwest in June, state leaders’ response was slow and inconsistent, some local and public health officials said. Republican governors have largely reflected Trump’s response, refusing to impose masks or impose and expand home orders.
Despite previous resistance, some governors have interrupted or reversed the reopening of certain companies in recent weeks, including those in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona and Florida.
In Texas, after opposing mask mandates and even banning cities from enforcing such rules, Governor Greg Abbott changed his mind as hospitals reached their capacity. He issued a state-wide mask mandate and deplored the reopening of bars.
“These are really inconsistent messages that have made things complicated, if not dangerous,” said Adrian Garcia, Harris County Commissioner.
In that county, Latinos make up more than 60 percent of cases – and 40 percent of the county’s population, said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.
“I said, ‘Wear your MAGA mask,'” added Hidalgo, a Democrat. “This is not about politics.”
In Alabama, “our state leaders have taken their cues from national leaders,” said Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed, who added that in June, 70 percent of new cases in Montgomery County were among black people. In mid-June, he instituted a city-wide masking mandate, although Republican Government Kay Ivey did not do it statewide.
In Arizona, Governor Doug Ducey’s decision to drop the state’s home birth at the end of May may have hurt a disproportionately large number of minorities – predominantly Native American and Latin American populations saw a 40 percent higher case rate than in the rest of the state.
“Our analysis strongly suggests that the premature reopenings of Arizona have exacerbated racial inequalities in the state, with Native Americans feeling the worst,” said Sgaier of the Surgo Foundation.
A spokesman for Ducey’s office said his records “the [state’s] guidance, including enforcement and mitigation efforts, “adding that it placed an emphasis on obtaining resources for the most severely affected communities, including the Navajo Nation and minority neighborhoods in Phoenix.
“People can’t get around it anymore”
As early as April, the virus’s attack on African Americans in Michigan, New York, and Wisconsin prompted public health experts to warn what minority communities might have in store. There are cases in mid-June among Latinos – which disproportionately work in essential services such as agriculture, meat packaging and catering – skyrocketed across the country.
“All Covid did was accelerate the inequalities we already know,” said Martha Moore-Monroy, a public health lecturer at the University of Arizona, whose work focuses on improving health in disadvantaged communities. “People can’t get around it anymore.”
Daniel Dawes, director of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine, is preparing a national plan to address the uneven impact of coronavirus on minorities – in an effort to change a pattern of inequality that is a hallmark of other public health crises.
The three-year initiative, which has a $ 40 million grant from the Federal Department of Health and Human Services and includes a network of national and local health organizations, is starting in the south. It will collect research and help black communities in Georgia, address outbreaks among incarcerated populations in Louisiana, and improve the spread of health and information in Navajo Nation and migrant workers in Texas. By the second year, Dawes hopes to focus on vaccine education and access.
Meanwhile, local officials get creative. In Georgia – where black people make up a third of the population, but nearly half of the deaths from Covid – Michael Thurmond, director of DeKalb County, realized he needed a better messenger for youth.
“They don’t listen to an old man like me,” said Thurmond, who asked rapper Killer Mike to cut a PSA for Black radio stations. He did the same with a Spanish-language advertisement for Latino radio stations, featuring local DJs and radio personalities.
In Arizona, educating and testing the rural population remains a lonely struggle, said Amanda Aguirre, president and CEO of the Regional Center for Border Health. The nonprofit makes up about 80 percent of the coronavirus tests in the majority of Latino Yuma County. Because the infections have increased rapidly, Aguirre said, they see more children and pregnant women being affected.
“I don’t know if we can stop it now,” she said. “This whole epidemic has brought us to our knees.”
Maya King contributed to this report.