NEW ORLEANS — Results from COVID-19 testing sites in New Orleans are shedding more light on how the pandemic is affecting one group in particular. According to an analysis of those sites from April to August by the New Orleans Health Department, the positivity rate for COVID is highest among Hispanics.
When the health department began free mobile testing back in the spring, it made a concerted effort to reach out to the Hispanic community.
“We have said publicly you don’t need an ID to get a test, you don’t have to be a resident. All we’re going to do is have a test, we’re going to have Spanish language interpreters there,” said Dr. Jennifer Avegno, the director of the New Orleans Health Department.
Analysis from those testing sites shows the positivity rates among Hispanics to be roughly 17 percent. That dwarfs the positivity rates of whites and blacks, which hovered around 2 percent. Dr. Avegno says COVID is hitting communities of color especially hard for several reasons. She says those communities tend to live in multi-generational homes and are often frontline workers, which raises the risk of infection.
“They can’t work from home, it’s much more difficult for folks in the service industry, low wage jobs. So, they’ve been working since March, and coming back to families who are also probably working and that puts them in a double bind,” said Dr. Avegno.
The pandemic exacts a toll on people’s health but also on their livelihood. This summer, the Archdiocese of New Orleans opened a food pantry at the Hispanic Apostolate campus in Metairie. Miriam is grateful for the help. She and her husband have been out of work.
“They work in construction, and because of the pandemic she hasn’t been working because there are no jobs,” said Deacon Martin Gutierrez.
Deacon Gutierrez translated for us. He also the Chief Operating Officer of Catholic Charities in Archdiocese of New Orleans, which is trying to meet the need for aid from the Hispanic community, among others.
“Economically is the biggest impact, but I do know of so many families who have lost loved ones to the virus,” said Deacon Gutierrez.
Since opening the food pantry three months ago, it has served more than 1,200 families or 4,000 people. While the positivity rates of COVID may be highest among Hispanics, thee scenes of people in need are playing out across the country, and across racial lines. The pain from the pandemic is universally understood.