As COVID-19 continues to sweep the state, Latinos are in a “perfect storm”

Hugo Balta

As Massachusetts moves to Phase 3 of coronavirus reopening plans, the state reported 15 new coronavirus deaths Monday and 157 new COVID-19 cases.

Massachusetts continues to show lower numbers of the disease-related deaths and cases, even as COVID-19 is spiking in other areas of the U.S.

Hispanic, Latinos account for 30-percent of the cases and 16% percent of the hospitalizations – even though they make up only 12-percent of the state’s overall population.

In New Bedford, the Health Department finds the Hispanic and Latino community make up nearly half of the total COVID-19 cases. While the ethnic group make up roughly 20% of New Bedford’s population, they account for 45.8% of its coronavirus cases, reported WPRI.

Health officials say a variety of factors such as language barriers, immigration fears and job positions have caused Hispanics and Latinos to become the ethnicity most affected by the virus in the city.

“I really want to really make sure the message is clear to them that during this pandemic, anyone has access to treatment or testing, no matter what their immigration status is,” Helena DaSilva Hughes, executive director of the Immigrants Assistance Center,  explained.

“I would equate what we’ve seen with the Latino population as kind of the perfect storm,” said Dr. Joseph Betancourt, the vice president and chief equity and inclusion officer at Massachusetts General Hospital, in an interview with NPR’s Morning Edition.

“If you equate it to a fire, to really have a bad fire there are three components to it: You have to have the substrate, so the set of conditions that would be very flammable with the spark, you have to have a spark, and you have to have material around it that makes the spread of the fire move extensively and quickly,” Betancourt said. “And I think in the case of the Latino population, we see all three of those kind of coming together to create this perfect storm.”

According to the COVID Tracking Project in 42 states plus Washington D.C., Hispanics/Latinos make up a greater share of confirmed cases than their share of the population. In eight states, it’s more than four times greater. 

In Phase 3, gyms, movie theaters, museums and other establishments got the green light to start operating again. Governor Charlie Baker is encouraged by the significant progress the state has made and cautioned that the state’s data will drive the measures to reopen further to Phase 4.