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Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Top Stories > Health

Latino community disproportionately affected by coronavirus Part 1

May 11, 2020

By Isabel Braverman - staff writer

By: PATRICIO ROBAYO | DEMOCRAT
South Fallsburg has been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus among the Latino population who live and work there, according to Public Health Director Nancy McGraw.
SOUTH FALLSBURG - As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in the county, a certain part of the population seems to be affected disproportionately.

Public Health Director Nancy McGraw said of the total number of coronavirus cases, which has now gone above 1,000 since the first case reported on March 16, 32 percent have been among the Latino community.

“The Town of South Fallsburg has been particularly hard hit and has the highest number of cases,” McGraw said during a live town hall last week. “We are closely monitoring that situation and working to identify additional cases and providing isolation and quarantine and getting assistance in the way of food and other things to individual community members to ensure that they have what they need to limit further spread.”

She added that a large percentage of the Latino community live and work in South Fallsburg. County-wide the Latino population accounts for 16 to 17 percent, but is higher in places like Fallsburg, Monticello and Liberty, which are also the county's population centers.


The county along with Hudson River Healthcare and Hudson Valley Area Labor Federation held a drive-thru testing site in South Fallsburg on Monday of last week, where 43 people were tested and seven tested positive. Bilingual advocates were provided.

McGraw said the county is taking action to bring awareness to South Fallsburg, and working with places of employment to ensure compliance with safety measures, such as wearing personal protective equipment.

She said they are also working with state agencies and community advocates to provide education in both English and Spanish to the community.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) current data suggest a disproportionate burden of illness and death due to coronavirus among racial and ethnic minority groups.

A recent CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from 580 patients hospitalized with lab-confirmed COVID-19 found that 45% of individuals for whom race or ethnicity data was available were white, compared to 55% of individuals in the surrounding community.

However, 33% of hospitalized patients were black compared to 18% in the community and 8% were Hispanic, compared to 14% in the community. The report stated these data suggest an overrepresentation of blacks among hospitalized patients.

The CDC says factors that influence racial and ethnic minority group health include living conditions, work circumstances, underlying health conditions and lower access to care.

One of the community organizations working to get information to the Latino population in Sullivan County is the Rural and Migrant Ministry. Youth Economic Group Coordinator Juanita Sarmiento said she has been going to their places of employment to hand out masks and information packets in Spanish.

“From what we've seen it looks like our community is being hit the hardest. The reason being all of the factories here hire all of these immigrant workers,” Sarmiento said.

Rural and Migrant Ministry started a “maskraiser” and received over 2,000 donations of masks in Sullivan County that Sarmiento and another part-time employee hand out to workers. She said they are very grateful and some of them ask what other kind of assistance is available to them.

Sarmiento said they are also holding Zoom video calls with the Public Health Department, the Migrant Education Program, Center for Workforce Development, Hudson River Healthcare, Worker Justice Center and the Hudson Valley Area Labor Federation where community members are invited to join and ask questions in Spanish.

Senator Jen Metzger has also worked to get face masks and hand sanitizer to farmers to distribute to their employees in collaboration with Cornell Cooperative Extension. Her office's Constituent Services Manager, Araceli Mir-Pontier, participated in the Zoom call to share resources and answer questions.

“Getting COVID-19 information and resources to the public has been a major priority of my office, and we have put together informative materials in Spanish and English for the communities I represent,” Metzger said. “The Hispanic community has been disproportionately affected by this public health crisis, and it's important that everyone knows what precautions to take to protect themselves and their families.”

Citizen activist Sandra Cuellar Oxford says vulnerable workers need to be protected and local government officials should step up. She and other community advocates are working together to try and lend some help.

“We are seeing that the community is not prepared for the pandemic in general, and they were not prepared prior to the pandemic to address the health disparities that Latino people have experienced,” Oxford said. “And this virus has just exacerbated that.”

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