News of two authorized COVID-19 vaccines has energized a new wave of hope across the country just in time for the holidays, although health experts warn that the situation is still grim. For Latinos, COVID rates are outpacing the general population and leaders are also grappling with new challenges, like distrust of the vaccine amongst Latino communities and housing inequality that is getting worse.
This week’s “5 Essential Updates” for our gente include updated Christmas plans, increasing school dropout rates, and how some states plan on prioritizing our gente.
1. A different Christmas — Like everything else this year, Christmas will have to be adapted to fit with the realities of COVID-19 spikes. Unfortunately, across the country, coronavirus is still raging, and last week the death and hospitalization rates were the highest they’ve been this whole year. Latinos who are used to congregating with extended family should be extra cautious, as some experts are asking to avoid Christmas gatherings altogether. If we do choose to go, they are encouraging us to take a COVID test first.
2. Latinos dropping out — In the two decades before the COVID-19 pandemic was a daily reality, college enrollment numbers for Latinos were on the rise, with twenty four percent of Latinos having at least an associate’s degree. This year, with the massive economic issues, housing and food insecurities brought on by the pandemic, 5% less Latinos enrolled in college this year.
3. Vaccine trust gap — A study conducted in September found that only 34 percent of Latinos trust a vaccine’s safety, and 40 percent trust its effectiveness. This is less than white communities, so some Latino leaders are working against this distrust with Spanish-language campaigns and community outreach.
4. Reduce health disparities — One new report from the South Carolina Institute of Medicine and Public health included recommendations to reduce health disparities among Latinos and other people of color that are made worse by the pandemic. These include providing hazard pay, paid sick leave, and childcare for essential workers; providing care that includes translation services; and expanding broadband for all students.
5. Prioritizing our gente — According to the CDC, half of U.S. states included racial equity in their vaccine rollout plans, which means Latino and Black people could be prioritized when the vaccine is available to the public in states like Arizona and California. Emphasizing “equitable access” and diversity is important since some communities of color in the U.S. are three-times more likely to die from COVID-19 than whites.