Austin (Nexstar) — From his Houston office, Dr. Peter Hotez read from a list of people who died of COVID-19 on an August day in one of the largest cities in the country. The list was made up entirely of minorities.
“I’m calling this historic decimation of Hispanic Latinx communities across the southern part of the United States,” Hotez, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine, said.
“That’s something we have to shout from the rooftops,” El Paso Democratic Congresswoman Veronica Escobar said in the virtual meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
According to caucus leaders, Latinos in America are more than three times as likely to be infected with COVID-19, and more than twice as likely to die from COVID-19.
Texas data supports that notion.
Demographic data from 15,364 death certificates filed with the state indicates more than half of coronavirus-related deaths are Hispanic people. A Texas Department of State Health Services breakdown of 53,607 completed case investigations revealed Hispanics made up 40% of coronavirus cases.
“They have a higher incidence of the comorbidities, which put you at risk,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institude of Allergy and Infections Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, who is known for his work on the White House Coronavirus Task Force.”
“That’s something that you do not fix in a month or a year,” Fauci said. “It’s something that requires a decade’s long commitment.”
Juan Sanchez, who moved to Austin from Mexico as a child, and has since become a U.S. citizen, is sure he had COVID-19 earlier this year. Because his symptoms did not match what was initially being tested for at the onset of the pandemic, he said he had difficulty accessing the resources he needed.
“I just had a very difficult time trying to acquire a testing kit, especially since I didn’t have any health care,” he said.
Sanchez quarantined for two weeks to keep him and his loved ones safe, but sacrificed those hours and pay as an independent contractor at a grocery delivery company.
“These communities need the help and resources to go get tested, or to get more information about how to prevent it,” Sanchez said.
He attributes the inflated COVID-19 cases and fatalities amongst Latinos to lack of information, and in some instances, language barriers.
“I don’t think there’s the resources necessary for the Latino communities to like, to gain that information, like they don’t really know what number to call to understand or what website to see, like, it’s, it’s just a little frustrating,” he added.
Fauci said it’s critical to support infrastructure for minorities during the pandemic and beyond.
“We need to relook at what we can do now to make this to be an enduring and burning lesson of a challenge that we have for the Latino community,” Fauci said.
Fauci told the caucus there are five vaccine candidates in phase three trial in the country. He expected the nation would know sometime at the end of this year or the start of next year whether any of those are safe and effective. He said he hoped the vaccines would be available for widespread distribution by April.