STUDY: High COVID-19 death rate among Hispanics may be linked to higher exposure at work

In the United States, Hispanic people have died from COVId-19 at disproportionately high rates.  A new study suggests that exposure to the virus in the workplace and the overrepresentation of Hispanics in essential labor jobs have contributed to this disparity.

ABC News reports that researchers at Ohio State University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee determined that Hispanics of working age (which the study defined as 30 to 69 years old) died as a result of contracting COVID-19 far more than white people in the same age group.  Hispanics only make up about 19% of this age group yet accounted for almost 41% of deaths in the same age group.  Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United States Census Bureau was analyzed in the study.  

Reanne Frank, a co-author of the study and professor of sociology at OSU, told the Ohio State News, “particularly for front-line and essential workers, among whom Hispanics are overrepresented, COVID-19 is an occupational disease that spreads at work.  Hispanics were on the front lines, and they bore a disproportionate cost.”  Lack of workplace protection has been said to be a problem since before the pandemic.  COVID-19 just made these issues worse and more obvious. About 80% of Hispanic employees work as essential workers, according to data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.

“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,” explained Nadia Marín, the co-executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. Marín discussed how she hopes this study and others can lead to better protections for low-wage workers. “Public health has been isolated from daily life,” Elena V. Rios said.  Rios is the president and CEO of the National Hispanic Medical association. She told ABC News that, “COVID-19 has opened the door to understanding that there should be more funding put into public health infrastructure… Public health is about the whole population.”





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