New Orleans: Concern over coronavirus in Hispanic community
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New Orleans officials are sounding the alarm after data from neighborhood testing showed that the city’s Hispanic community is being disproportionately infected with the coronavirus.
The city’s health director, Jennifer Avegno, said that officials had analyzed the roughly 5,000 tests that had been done at testing sites in recent weeks in partnership with Louisiana State University and LCMC Health. They found that about 3% of blacks and whites who got tested were positive for the virus. But of Hispanics who got tested more than 20% were positive.
They compared their data with other groups such as Ochsner, which had started a mobile testing site and found that they were seeing similar results.
“That is an incredible disparity,” said Avegno.
Avegno said so far the death rate doesn’t mirror the infection rate, but she’s concerned that the data they’re seeing within the Hispanic community might be the beginning of a greater problem.
“When you catch COVID it may be weeks and weeks before, unfortunately, you succumb to it,” she said. “So we’re really trying to catch it early so that that 20% does not turn into a 20% death rate.”
The trend in New Orleans echoes similar issues in other cities including Chicago. The Hispanic population in New Orleans has grown since Hurricane Katrina, although their numbers are still a relatively small percentage of the city’s total population — 5.6% according to the Data Center.
Councilwoman Helena Moreno created a task force to look at the disparities and address it. They’ve partnered with faith-based organizations, nonprofits that work with the Hispanic community, the city’s Mexican and Honduran consulates, and physicians to reach out to the Hispanic community. Neighboring Jefferson Parish, which Moreno said was seeing similar infection rates in the Hispanic community, is also involved.
Last week they held two testing clinics at a New Orleans Catholic church that is frequented by many in the city’s Hispanic community, and will continue to do more testing in neighborhoods with Hispanic populations. The task force is also working on Spanish-language public service announcements.
Moreno said many in the Hispanic community are worried that they’ll have to show identification to get tested or that they’ll get reported to the authorities if they can’t pay for treatment. She stressed that people do not have to show ID to get tested.
“There’s a lot of fear,” she said. “We have a lot of work to do.”
Mary Moran, who heads Nuestra Voz Our Voice that works with the city’s Latino population, said the ID issue has been a concern. Many of the people they work with are also essential workers and worried about bringing an infection home to their families, or they don’t qualify for government relief, are sometimes illegally threatened with eviction and have to work regardless of their health.
Her organization has been taking steps to help the Hispanic community such as sending Ubers to take people to testing sites, recruiting doctors who speak Spanish to put out video messages about the virus and getting Spanish language speakers at testing sites.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.