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Most people have not realized the true magnitude of the plunder of precious lives that COVID-19 has exacted across the country.

For many, images of the massive death toll in New York months ago were surreal and a long distance away. Plenty of people are not aware that the U.S. is the world leader in infections and fatalities associated with the coronavirus. The reality is there are profound disparities in the rate at which COVID-19 has taken lives across varying groups. The disease has been particularly devastating to people of color. This fact, no doubt, shields many from realizing the immensity of the corona-virus and the urgency and widespread cooperation that is needed to put a halt to its spread.

Let’s take a look at the statistics to get a grasp of the enormity of the devastation of the virus on human life.

While the U.S. makes up 4 percent of the world’s population, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center, we account for 24 percent of infections and 22 percent of fatalities across the globe. Currently, 5.9 million people in the country have contracted the virus and 181,000 have succumbed to the disease.

In addition, although it is true COVID-19 is more fatal to older than younger people, there are significant differences. For example, 9 of every 10 whites who have died from COVID-19 have been 65 and older, compared with 7 of every 10 Blacks and 6 of every 10 Latinos deceased. People younger than 55 account for 18 percent and 11 percent, respectively, of all Latinos and Blacks who have succumbed to the disease, compared with 3 percent of whites. In fact, while Latinos and Blacks account for a little more than 1 of every 3 people in the nation’s population that is younger than 55, they make up nearly 3 of every 4 people younger than 55 who have succumbed to the disease.

Overall, using the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, after adjusting for age differences, I calculate that Blacks and Latinos are dying from COVID-19 at a rate that is more than three times higher than that of whites. The mortality gaps are even much worse — at rates of 6 to 1 — from ages 25 to 64. Put simply, people of color have been disproportionately on the front lines as essential workers without the luxury of being able to work from home. It is also the case people of color are more likely to have pre-existing chronic conditions that put them at greater risk of contracting the virus and dying from the disease because of compromised immunity systems. Please realize these health disparities have not merely cropped up in the midst of the pandemic but are the cumulative outcomes associated with limited access to health care throughout life.

However, in Texas, Latinos have particularly borne the brunt of the devastation of the pandemic. In my latest monthly blog I write for Latino Decisions, I observe that Texas is the only state, thus far, where Latinos account for more than half of all deaths from COVID-19. Based on my analysis of the latest CDC data, taking age differences into account, Latino Texans are dying at a rate nearly four times higher than whites, with Blacks also dying at a rate 2.4 times higher than whites. Latinos between the ages of 35 and 64 are perishing at rates that are six to seven times higher than those of whites. One of every 6 Latinos who have lost their lives to COVID-19 in Texas are younger than 55, compared with 1 of every 20 whites. These cold facts illustrate mournful disparities.

Latinos have also been hit hard in San Antonio. According to the latest data from the city’s COVID-19 dashboard, while Latinos make up 60 percent of the overall population, they account for 76 percent of people who have contracted the virus and 68 percent of those who have died from the disease. Whites and Blacks have been disproportionately underrepresented among cases and fatalities in the city.

As long as the coronavirus does not disproportionately hit the mainstream, there will be little urgency in stopping this horrible disease.

Editor’s Note:  The above guest column was penned by Rogelio Sáenz, professor in the Department of Demography at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Over the last several months, he has conducted extensive research and writing on Latinos and COVID-19. The above guest column first appeared in The San Antonio Express-News. It appears in The Rio Grande Guardian with the permission of the author. 

Editor’s Note: Credit for the main photo accompanying the above guest column goes to Mike Segar/Reuters.

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