And One-Third of COVID-19 Cases in Central Florida
It’s been said that the COVID-19 pandemic is a great equalizer, but that’s not exactly true.
COVID-19 is opportunistic, targeting people wherever and whenever it can. However, the virus does not strike everyone alike. It does discriminate based on age and health conditions. It does discriminate according to gender. It does discriminate between rich and poor. And it does discriminate by race or ethnicity. All the data sets are bearing this out.
If you are between 45 and 64 years-old, you are at higher risk of getting the virus and to die from it. Gov. Ron DeSantis recently said the elderly represent 95 percent of COVID-19 fatalities in Florida. If you have an underlying health condition, such as heart disease or obesity, you are at higher risk of complications. If you’re a man, you are at higher risk – and much likelier to die of the virus than a woman. And COVID-19 is striking the black and Hispanic populations especially hard.
That is why health experts have transitioned from generalities about COVID-19 cases – and frankly, inconsiderate public policies – to specifically singling out for closer attention the population groups most at risk.
Gone is the “you must come to the Orange County Convention Center to get tested” policy, although people can still do that. Now, the county is coming to you at different locations such as East Orange County or Camping World Stadium, acknowledging that transportation may be an issue for the less affluent. Seminole County is doing the same, focusing on communities such as East Altamonte Springs and Jamestown for testing. Both are mostly African-American areas.
Gone is the Orange County presser with little or no Spanish-language translation, after Hispanic community leaders such as Marucci Guzmán of Latino Leadership and Father José Rodríguez of Jesús de Nazaret Episcopal Church rightly pointed out this glaring flaw.
Gone is the edict that “you must have a doctor’s lab order” before getting tested. What if you don’t have a primary physician? Or health care? In Florida 13 percent of the population has no health insurance, according to americashealthrankings.org. That’s about 2.5 million people. Plus, we now know that many people have the virus and do not know it because they have no symptoms.
Meanwhile, the affluent can staycation in their large homes. If they’re off-the-charts wealthy, they flee to second or third homes, away from the hoi polloi that carries the virus. The Wall Street Journal is filled with stories of the wealthy escaping to the Hamptons, Rhode Island, spacious ranches in Montana or Wyoming, or seaside villas here in Florida. Many people of color live in more densely packed communities, especially in hard-hit New York City. We are not all in this together.
Black and Hispanics are over-represented among the hoi polloi not just because they are younger on average than nonHispanic whites, although that is true. Not just because they generally have poorer health, although that is true. Not just because they have fewer health care options, although that’s true, too.
In addition to all of the above, it’s because they are over-represented in people-to-people, low-paying contact jobs: the barista, the retail clerk or cashier, the restaurant worker, the hair stylist or barber, the health aide, the housekeeper, the transportation worker, and many more. They are truly exposed.
Many cannot work from home because it’s impossible, but also because they need the money. About 42 percent of workers earn $15 an hour or less, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They do not have the wherewithal to withstand a crisis.
That’s why Hispanics, for instance, are over-represented in Central Florida COVID-19 cases. Florida, where low-paying jobs reign supreme. Here are the numbers as of April 24, according to Florida Health Department data.
- In Seminole, Latinos are 37 percent of COVID-19 cases, but 22 percent of the county population.
- In Lake, Hispanics are 28 percent of cases, but 16 percent of the population.
- In Polk, Latinos are 28 percent of virus cases, but 24 percent of the population.
- In Orange and Osceola, the numbers are about even, with Latinos comprising 32 percent of cases/population in Orange, while in Osceola the figure is 55 percent of the cases/population. However, certain zip codes where Latinos predominate, such as 32822 which includes Azalea Park, are “hot spots.”
Volusia is the only county where Latinos are under-represented among COVID-19 cases: 10.3 percent versus 15 percent of the population.
As of April 24, Latinos make up nearly 40 percent of coronavirus cases in the tri-county area of Orange, Osceola and Seminole – higher than their numbers in the general population (except for Osceola).
In the six county area, they comprise 33 percent of COVID-19 cases, for a total of about 900 cases. Bear in mind, the number of cases is low because testing for the virus is low, about 321,000 tests out of a Florida population of 22 million.
Florida reported over 1,300 COVID-19 new cases for April 23, matching a record in early April. Which means the Hispanic and African American numbers likely will continue to climb.
So, no, COVID-19 is not an equal-opportunity virus. It chases the population’s most vulnerable. Desgraciadamente, as we say in Spanish, people of color in the United States are over-represented among the vulnerable.
˜˜María Padilla, Editor