A little girl is tested for COVID-19 at Annandale High School, in Annandale, Va. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
A little girl is tested for COVID-19 at Annandale High School, in Annandale, Va. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

And what regulations could help bring more parity, especially for front-line workers.

The coronavirus pandemic is disproportionately hitting minority groups and in Virginia data shows the crisis affecting the state’s Latino population in a deeply unequal way. 

Across the country residents have noticed similar trends with Black and brown communities bearing the brunt of infections and deaths related to the coronavirus. Black people in America are three times as likely to contract the virus than their white counterparts. The infection rate for the Latino population is slightly higher, according to the National Urban League. 

This is especially apparent with Latinx people living in Virginia. According to the Virginia Department of Health, Latinx people account for 45% of coronavirus cases and 35% of hospitalizations in the state, even though they make up just 10% of the state’s overall population. 

Dr. Sergio Rimola, an OB/GYN in Vienna, Virginia, said deep health disparities along racial lines existed in the United States long before the coronavirus pandemic made headlines. But the sudden appearance of the novel coronavirus highlighted these disparities in a major way. 

“In my opinion, Latinos have been more affected by the pandemic because so many are essential workers, they are on the front lines of this. [A large number] are working in the meatpacking industry, they work in hospitals and transit,” Dr. Rimola said in an interview with Dogwood. 

The unequal distribution of cases can also be attributed to additional factors as well, like preexisting conditions, less access to medical care and a hesitation to engage with the healthcare system, according to NPR

Dr. Rimola noted that some of Virginia’s wealthiest and most populated areas, like Fairfax County, have some of the deepest disparities. Although nearly 17% of the county is Latinx, nearly 50% of the COVID-19 cases in the area affected Latinx people. This has actually decreased in recent months, in June a whopping 66% of the coronavirus cases in Fairfax county were attributed to Latinx people. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Dr. Rimola has worked with state officials on the Latino Advisory Board for Gov. Ralph Northam to improve outreach to minority populations. Public officials have established a bilingual contract tracing system, but Dr. Rimola said he would like to see Virginia put more regulations in place to protect essential workers. 

“I wish there were more regulations to help people with personal protective equipment such as masks,” he said. 

Dr. Rimola also noted the lack of leadership coming from Washington. 

“I think [President Trump] has not handled the coronavirus pandemic well and I think he ignored the threat for too long. It took too long to warn the country and to start ramping up the production of gloves and protective gear,” he said. “As a physician, for example, I have had difficulty in finding protective equipment for my office.” 

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has outlined a series of plans to help America recover and prevent similar situations in the future. 

“Trump’s inability to lead and get this pandemic under control has brought on unnecessary suffering to Virginians, particularly people of color,” Chris Bolling, the Virginia director of Biden’s campaign, said in a statement to Dogwood. “Before COVID, African Americans and Latinos were already disproportionately impacted by chronic illnesses, higher uninsured rates, and systemic racism in the health care system. Joe Biden understands that this virus does not impact every community equally, and he will provide leadership to help us build back a better, more equitable health care system that works for everyone.”