Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Latinos increasingly affected by COVID-19 in rural Idaho

| May 29, 2020 1:16 PM

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — New data shows a recent spike in coronavirus cases has hit Latinos in rural Idaho, an already disproportionately affected community that makes up a third of the state's cases where the race is known.

Data collected from all seven Idaho public health districts has shown a majority of the people who have contracted the coronavirus in multiple Magic Valley counties are Latino, the Idaho Statesman reported.

The report released Wednesday showed Latinos made up more than half of the positive coronavirus cases in Lincoln, Minidoka, Gooding, Jerome and Cassia counties. Lincoln County had the highest percentage in Magic Valley, with Latinos making up 78% of the county's 33 COVID-19 cases.

The data provided by other Idaho health districts also shows similar effects on Latino communities, the Statesman reported.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The vast majority of people recover.

Outbreaks in food processing and meatpacking plants may be driving the increasing cases and ethnic disparity in some rural areas, as many of the employees who tested positive were Latino, according to data.

“Nationwide, we’ve seen a disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases in Hispanic/Latino and other minority communities, and our district is no exception,” said Melody Bowyer, director of the South Central Public Health District. “Access to health care, safe and adequate housing, health education, and economic stability have long been the important social determinants of health outcomes. There is much to be learned from this crisis."

The Idaho testing task force said last week that the state should prioritize testing asymptomatic people in racial minority groups disproportionately affected by the pandemic, including Latinos, African Americans and tribal communities. But it is unclear if the state has the testing capacity to broaden its outreach.

“We only care about investigating this disease and helping the people who have contracted it, but there are some concerns out there that we will pursue details about citizenship or other uncomfortable topics,” said Brianna Bodily, spokeswoman with the South Central Public Health District. “We continue to work on breaking down those barriers by working with community leaders and consistently showing that our concern is for their well-being, not their legal status.”