Existing disparities in access to health care and other predictors of health status have led to two key effects among Latinx communities during the pandemic: increased risk of COVID-19 disease burden and increased risk of negative economic and social effects. Nationally, Latinx community members are at 1.9 times higher risk of contracting, 2.8 times higher risk of being hospitalized for, and 2.3 times higher risk of dying from COVID-19 than non-Hispanic, White populations. Similar to other historically marginalized populations, Latinx community members have experienced housing, job, and food insecurity. Key reasons underlying the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 include the long-standing effects of social and structural determinants of health, poverty, discrimination, and structural racism. For example, many Latinx community members lack paid sick leave or health insurance, lack a secure job, and live with daily uncertainty and fear related to immigration status.
During an early peak of the pandemic in June 2020, Latinx community members in Durham, North Carolina, represented 75 percent of COVID-19 cases. This figure is five times greater than the share of the population in Durham that identifies as Hispanic, Latino, or Latinx. Throughout the summer months, the intensive care unit at Duke University was filled with Spanish-speaking patients who were sick with COVID-19. According to many Latinx, long-time Durham residents, their hospitalization for COVID-19 was their first interaction with the health system. This reality reflects decades of disconnection and systemic exclusion from the existing health infrastructure and networks, which continues to this day.
The Latinx Advocacy Team and Interdisciplinary Network for COVID-19 (LATIN-19) is a coalition of partners established in March 2020 to connect Latinx communities in North Carolina to COVID-19 resources. Collaborations among LATIN-19, health systems, public health departments, state health officials, and local community partners have reduced barriers to COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites, misinformation in communities, and disparities in COVID-19 vaccination rates. Duke Health COVID-19 vaccination events conducted in partnership with LATIN-19 reached substantially more people who identify as Hispanic/Latino/Latinx compared to Duke Health events without LATIN-19’s collaboration.