Young Black and Latinx people in California are dying due to the coronavirus at disproportionate rates according to new data.
The Los Angeles Times reported Black and Latinx people between ages 18 and 49 are dying at higher rates than their white and Asian counterparts based on data released by the state health department last week. They are also dying more than Black and Latinx people over the age of 65.
Black Californians aged 18 to 49 make up 15% of the state’s death toll. They only make up 6% of the state’s total population. Black residents aged 65 or older are two times more likely to die from the virus than the rest of their age group, the LA Times reported.
The aforementioned rate raises to 2.5 for people 49 years old or younger. Latinx people make up 39% of California’s population and 32% of deaths, which is a slight underrepresentation. However, the group has a younger population, and no minors have died from the virus in California.
The statistics are reversed for white and Asian people. The older white and Asian residents with the virus are, the more likely they are to die, the report found.
“None of us knew what the numbers would look like. But we know that this is going to disproportionately affect communities that have fewer resources, have higher rates of underlying disease,” Dr. Sonia Angell, director of the California Department of Public Health, told the LA Times. “That’s the reality of inequities in our country. It’s something that we’re working very hard to address. It’s not acceptable. It’s not just.”
Other factors putting Black people at risk include preexisting conditions and overrepresentation in low-paying essential service jobs. Latinx people are also more likely to work blue-collar jobs.
“They don’t have the luxury to be able to survive by working from home,” said Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, director of the UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities. “Their jobs require their presence, which puts their lives on the line by being infected.”
Environmental racism is another factor since people of color are more likely to live in highly polluted areas.
“Latinos and African Americans live nearer to freeways, in neighborhoods where there is a lot more pollution and oil drilling, so that causes more diseases like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and heart disease,” said Marta Segura, environmental justice and public health advocate.
Segura believes the pandemic highlighted a more insidious issue that cannot be alleviated with tests or treatment.
“That’s the band-aid to mitigate the ravages of this particular pandemic,” she said. “However, if we want to deal with disasters and pandemics of the future, we need to address the larger failures of our policies and economic frameworks in all communities, but particularly in communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted.”
As of Saturday afternoon, more than 41,000 Californians have tested positive for the virus and 1,612 have died, reported The Mercury News.
“Those should be sobering and cautionary statistics as it relates to the desire we all have to get back to some semblance of normalcy,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Friday. “We’re not by any stretch of the imagination in a position to say … that any new lights are yet green.”