CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately affecting the Latinx community in North Carolina.
Hispanic people make up about 10 percent of North Carolina’s population. However, about 46 percent of COVID-19 cases in North Carolina have been found in Hispanics.
Atrium Health has also noticed disproportionate numbers locally.
According to Atrium Health’s Levine Children’s Hospital Epidemeologist Dr. Amina Ahmed, she estimates about 25 percent of Hispanics who are tested for COVID-19 at Atrium Health, are positive.
In comparison, Atrium Health reports a 9.5 percent positivity rate for everyone who is tested at its facilities.
“And of all the children coming forward for hospital care, two-thirds are Hispanic,” Dr. Ahmed said.
Although the Black community and Hispanic community are more likely to have severe complications from COVID-19 due to higher rates of diabetes and heart disease, health leaders say they should not have higher case numbers than any other race or ethnicity.
Atrium Health’s pediatrician Dr. Debbie Chavez-Mitchell says there may be a few reasons why the virus is spreading rapidly through the Hispanic community.
One reason may be that many people from the Latinx community work in essential jobs where social distancing may be difficult, such as construction or food processing plants.
“So then those parents are bringing it into the homes and spreading it there,” Dr. Chavez-Mitchell said.
Many Hispanic homes are multi-generational, meaning grandparents, parents and children are living under one roof.
“I’ve seen a lot where all household members have been infected,” Dr. Chavez-Mitchell said. “And these homes contain about 8 to 10 people in each home. So that’s where our numbers are picking up quite a bit.”
In addition, medical professionals believe it is harder for the Latinx population to receive preventative messages because many of them do not speak English. Atrium Health has interpreters and signage in Spanish, but they say Hispanic people are less likely to seek out medical care out of fear of not being understood or immigration issues.
Drive by the storefronts in the Central Avenue strip mall, anyone can see the impacts of the coronavirus. While most places are open, signs ask people to wear masks and socially distance.
“It is seriously so it’s very important to take care of ourselves,” said Yoshimara Cineda, of Hispanic heritage.
Cineda is taking all the precautions.
Her mask is a new decorative on her mirror and her shirt urges people to stay six feet away from her.
Her shirt reads, “please keep your distance six feet,” in both English and Spanish.
“We’re trying to help people to think it is necessary to try to keep ourselves safe,” said Cineda.
Cineda said her efforts are somewhat going unnoticed. She thinks a little more than half of her community are wearing masks.
“Well kinda sad because some people they just don’t understand,” she said. “They just don’t care about it.”
Doctor Viviana Martinez-Bianchi said they need to care about the virus.
Martinez-Bianchi is on North Carolina’s coronavirus task force. She spoke on Friday urging the Latinx community to take the virus seriously.
“The authorities can implement measures but if we are not aware of the importance of wearing the masks, keeping our distance and washing our hands any measures from the authorities will be useless,” said Martinez-Bianchi.
Martinez-Bianchi said the Latinx community is essential workers keeping the economy afloat.
It offers some insight on the coronavirus impacts, but she said their health is just as essential as their jobs.
As she spoke Friday afternoon, the people in the Latinx community say they listened—understanding they all have a part to play to get the numbers down.
“To those who believe that this is not serious, I ask you please to think about the people who have already died. Hard-working, beloved and missed by their families,” Martinez-Bianchi said.
Friday, DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen announced the state would be giving $100,000 grants to five nonprofits that do work in the Latinx Community.
One nonprofit receiving grant money is the Latin America Coalition in Charlotte.