Study Examines Why COVID-19 Mortality Rates Higher Among Hispanics

Hispanic people in America have died at disproportionately higher rates than whites from COVID-19. A new study found Hispanics accounted for almost 41% of age-adjusted deaths, although they make up only 19% of the population.

According to ABC News, researchers at Ohio State University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Census Bureau. They found Hispanics were among the majority of frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and bore a “disproportionate cost” because of their occupations.

Experts blamed lack of workplace protection such as protective personal equipment and social distancing on the high rate of mortality among frontline workers. They also said there was an absence of advocacy for the essential workers battling COVID-19.

“Those workers should not have to worry both about their health and safety, trying to fix their conditions on the job, and then, whether the employer is going to get them deported,” said Nadia Marin-Molina, co-executive director of the National Day Labor Organization Network who has worked for years in the struggle for immigrant rights.

Roughly 80% of Hispanics are employed as essential workers and surveys show only 16.2% of them said they could work from home compared to 31.4% of non-Hispanic people, according to ABC News.

It is widely known Hispanics are overrepresented among workers in essential occupations such as healthcare, grocery stores, construction, and warehousing, according to the Ohio State News. The new study confirmed Hispanics aged 30-69 years old had much higher death rate from COVID-19 than whites. This corresponds to previous findings Hispanics also had disproportionately higher infection rates.

The authors of the study hope, by identifying the link between infection in the workplace and a higher rate of COVID-19 deaths, employers will improve on-the-job safety conditions.

“If we know the source of the spread, then we can tackle it head on,” said D. Phuong Do, Ph.D., associate professor of public health policy and administration at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “This finding is applicable to any disease that is highly infectious. We can’t stop the economy — we’ve learned that. There has to be a way to protect workers and enforce protection.”

The authors published their study in the journal Demographic Research.

Interestingly, according to the Ohio State News, the researchers found Hispanics had fewer preexisting health conditions than whites, and there were no significant differences in the number of infections between the 2 working-age groups that resulted in deaths. They said this narrows the cause of rampant mortality from COVID-19 to workplace exposure, not poor healthcare.

“This evidence can hopefully set the record straight about why the Hispanic community, along with other groups overrepresented among frontline workers, took such a heavy hit from this pandemic — that it was because they were doing their jobs, and putting themselves on the line,” according to Frank.

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