July 19, 2020

This is troubling. Legislative leaders have been calling for testing for several months as a way to identify problem areas with COVID-19, address them and slow the spread of the virus. Here’s an example why.

The News & Observer reports that Latinos in North Carolina, though less than 10% of the state’s population, account for 44% of the lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases.

According to the N&O, “nearly 62% of Durham residents who tested positive for COVID-19 since March are Latino. The Latino community is 10% of Wake County’s population but represents 45% of its COVID-19 cases.”

Several reasons have been suggested. The language barrier for some may have meant they were not made aware of the seriousness of the situation and not informed. According to the article, another of the main reasons for the concentration in Hispanic concentrations of population is that “many Latino residents work in industries such as construction or food processing, in jobs where they don’t offer health insurance and where social distancing is difficult.”

That makes sense and it’s concerning that more hasn’t been discussed publicly about this problem. Another News and Observer article that reported on a meeting of Latino advocacy leaders, organized by Duke University, to address the tragic impact that COVID-19 has had on Latinos may have described the situation best:

“Organizations expressed disappointment at the lack of a more timely and targeted campaign to help the at-risk Latino community.”

“I respectfully believe that the [state government] had been keeping this data from the public in a way so that there isn’t a stigma against them and blame wouldn’t be put on the Latino,” said Dr. Viviana Martinez-Bianchi in Spanish, who serves on the state’s marginalized population task force and is a Duke doctor. “But at the same time it’s a problem, because it’s necessary to protect [the community] through data.”

Yes, science and data are important. And the best way to have gotten that information would have been with an emphasis on testing as legislative leaders expressed. Then, you would think that the high rate of infection in the Latino community could have been addressed earlier as a “hotspot” so they could have warned more effectively on the advantages of wearing a mask, social distancing and staying at home.

But the Governor’s administration, instead of pulling out all the stops to introduce testing so we could have scientific data to find where the trouble spots were and help those people, put their emphasis on preventing infection according to his health experts.

As the Governor’s chief of chronic disease and injury at the state’s Department of Health and Human Service said, “(Testing) is not a solution to prevent infection, really, it’s a mechanism to detect infection.”

Seems like to us laymen that if the experts had worked hard to “detect infection” through testing that it would have been easier to find where it’s most prevalent to make sure you “prevent infection” in areas that need it most. 

Regardless, what a sad day for our Hispanic population that has been hit hard by both the virus and the economic collapse.