Last Tuesday, a record number of Latino voters flocked to the polls and voted by mail in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, helping Joseph R. Biden Jr. become President-elect. On Friday, the U.S. eclipsed prior records of COVID-19 cases with 120,000 cases in one day. Texas leads in these cases and the state’s Latino population has been hit hardest.
This week’s “5 Essential Updates” for our gente include what motivated Latino voters to get to the polls, the case for outdoor socializing, and the developments of a new vaccine.
1. COVID-19 front and center — COVID-19 was a “wake-up call for our community,” and the virus was the number one reason Latinos went out to the polls in Nevada, according to Cecilia Alvarado of Mi Familia Vota, a Latino advocacy group. In this key battleground state, 56% of Latinos chose Joe Biden, who has already established a COVID-19 taskforce that will make serious decisions about our health.
2. For Latinos, the “worst is yet to come” — As individual states and the country as a whole report record-breaking rates of coronavirus infections, Latinos are dying at over three times the rate of our white counterparts. In El Paso, Texas, where over 80% of the population is Latino, hospitals and intensive care units are at full capacity, and “the trends are getting worse” for our communities, says Rogelio Sáenz of the Department of Demography at the University of Texas, at San Antonio.
3. A new COVID-19 vaccine brings hope — On Monday, Pfizer and BioNTech announced new developments with a coronavirus vaccine. The vaccine is the first tested in the U.S. to generate large-scale data, and the results are promising, according to the companies. Some health experts are calling for Latinos and other people of color to be prioritized in distribution of vaccines, but strategically so people don’t feel like “they’re being experimented upon,” says Geroges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association.
4. The case for outdoor socializing — For everyone, and especially Latinos who are suffering disproportionately from mental health issues, spending time in nature is important to reduce stress and even regulate heart beat. Now, experts are encouraging us to embrace cold weather and continue meeting outdoors, and socially distanced, when we can.
5. Puerto Rico’s new COVID-19 testing — In an attempt to test asymptomatic people who are not aware they’re infected, Puerto Rico’s Health Department established a new set of COVID-19 rapid tests at toll booths across the island. The results would be ready in 15 minutes, and officials are hoping these measures will help curb infections.