FRIDAY, Oct. 9, 2020 (American Heart Association News) — Since the coronavirus pandemic began, Maria de Lourdes Alvarado has had to pick up extra or overtime shifts whenever she can, like millions of other essential workers outside of the health care field who are helping to maintain a sense of normalcy in their communities.
And also like them, Alvarado is bearing the economic and medical brunt of the havoc COVID-19 is wreaking across the country.
The Los Angeles nonprofit where she works as an administrator, the Instituto de Educación Popular del Sur de California, provides the Hispanic community with relief from economic, personal and medical fallout from the pandemic. At a funeral home, where she is a weekend supervisor, she has witnessed firsthand the tragic toll on families like hers.
Her husband, an automobile detailer, lost his job in March and remains unemployed. Their 23-year-old son recently graduated from Northern Arizona University and is struggling to find employment as well. Her 16-year-old son is home completing his high school education online.
“The main reason I work so hard is because I’ve become the main provider for my family and I avoid getting into a lot of debt because my main goal is send my kids to college,” Alvarado said.
“But I also love my community. Working with day laborers and household workers has really opened my eyes to see how the Latino community is often left behind. It’s hard to understand how people like me have diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure. We don’t know it because we don’t go as often as we should to see a doctor,” she said. “If COVID-19 is affecting the Latino community more, it’s because a lot of people in this community are not aware of their own health situation because they don’t have the money to tend to it.”
Hispanics, who currently make up about 18% of the U.S. population, are disproportionally getting sick and dying compared to non-Latino white people, as the pandemic continues to highlight societal inequities that leave historically marginalized communities more at risk to be exposed to the virus.
A recent study found that Latinos 65 years and older were two times more likely to die from the coronavirus than white non-Latinos of the same age group. The research, drawing on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, academic literature and news sources, also reported that Black adults 65 and older had about three times the death rate from the virus compared to white people in the same age group.
The Hispanic community, some of which has been hit hard by lack of access to healthy food and health care, already is at high risk for uncontrolled high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and coronary artery disease. These underlying conditions put them more at risk of developing severe cases of COVID-19. By the end of September, Hispanics made up 29% of nearly 2.7 million cases tracked by the CDC, and