COVID and the Hispanic/Latinx context: why essential workers still suffer while sustaining our broken economy

By Jorge Iván Soto (MPP 2021)

It’s been 6 months since the pandemic wreaked havoc in the East. While many nation-states have taken premeditated and exhaustive measures to mitigate the outbreak, the United States’ desultory plan have left many of its working population vulnerable to the virus. New studies in Nashville show a stark disparities in COVID-19 cases. Latinx folk account for around 35% of Tennessee’s COVID cases, yet only make up under 6% of the population. This is a reality in many places in these States. In New York City, Mayor De Blasio shared earlier in April that Hispanic residents accounted for 34% of COVID-related deaths. UC San Francisco released their findings in a study conducted to identify the results of initial testing in Mission County. While Hispanics made up 44% of tested subjects, their 94% positive response rate drew some alarming conclusions about the situation: Latinx folk are bearing the brunt of this pandemic, and their class status and occupations provide little room for flexibility.

Not due to any juxtapositions of the social norms of the marginalized people, like Gov. DeSantis (FL). Tries to insinuate, but due to the inactions and slow reactions to protect our essential workers. The  occupations that are deemed essential (farmworkers, food industry workers, housekeepers, grocery workers,  etc.) are occupationally  dominated by the Hispanic populations, and while COVID has been ravaging the United States—once again seeing an uptick in cases signifying another wave of mass cases—the federal government is likely to halt funding, and lax regulations put these workers in a predominantly alarming vulnerable state when it comes to the spread of the disease.

 Being close together while working isn’t an action that they partake in willingly, but these industries almost force this proximity due to the nature of the work as well as trying to squeeze as much production rate advantage as they can. States like Iowa, who’s immigrant and Hispanic populations are also suffering massive positive test rate numbers, have gone out of their way to try and make it harder for people to hold companies accountable for their lack of action in trying to mitigate the spread of the disease within their work force. Riddle this with little to no resources available for them to try and take care of themselves, and we. See potentially COVID-carrying workers forced to keep struggle through the pandemic. With little resources, a demagogic administration that seems to prioritize the economic growth of the country over the general wellbeing of his people, it’s looking to only get worse for the Latinx community Essential workers are continuing to carry on as their companies maintain this “business as usual” approach. Hazard pay to such workers are quietly being rolled back, again further restricting the financial flexibility to try and combat COVID. While giving these workers the break they deserve, many economists fear that this will lead to a supply chain shortage of goods, which will disrupt the economic output of the nation, but  I believe that this perspective is short sighted: in a time when we are again seeing an increasing rate of COVID-19 cases in the United States, the long term economic effects are going to be felt at an exponentially worse rate than if we decided to be proactive and tackle this pandemic head on.

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