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Important Latin workers carry the greatest burden of coronavirus



Important Latin workers carry the greatest burden of coronavirus

For Lupe Martinez, who washes clothes in Riverside nursing homes, presents a torturous choice every day: Go to work and risk getting a new corona virus or losing the $ 13.58 hourly salary that his family relies on.

Martinez starts working.

Even after the mask starts to thin out. In fact, he said, after a patient whose room he entered without protective equipment fell ill and was put in isolation.

Martinez, 62, tested positive for COVID-19 last month, followed by her 60-year-old husband, who had to stop working after suffering a heart attack last year. His adult sons and daughters, who lived with them, were also stated positive.

“There are many times I don’t want to go to work,” Martinez said, coughing heavily as he spoke. “I don’t want to be sick. My husband said, “Don’t.” I said we can’t live. We have this bill. … I had to push myself to leave. I have a commitment to my family. ”

For low-paid employees whose jobs are rarely glorified – people who clean floors, wash, serve fast food, harvest crops, work in a meat factory – have jobs that keep America going with heavy work. price. By the strange calculus caused by a virus outbreak, they have been considered “important.” And that means being a target.

Rafael Saavedra at his home in the Alhambra. The truck driver, whose salary was cut in two, was afraid to infect his daughter at home.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Along with black people, Latinos have borne the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic in California and other parts of the United States, becoming infected and dying at a relatively high disproportionate rate compared to their share in the population. Health experts say one of the main reasons Latinos are very vulnerable to COVID-19 is because many jobs in low-paying jobs require them to leave home and interact with the public.

Latinos comprise about 40% of California’s population but 53% of positive cases, according to country data. In San Francisco, Latinos comprise 15% of the population but constitute 25% of COVID-19 confirmed cases.

UC San Francisco researchers test thousands of people in the city’s Mission District for COVID-19. While Latinos comprise 44% of people tested, they account for more than 95% of positive cases. About 90% of those who test positive say they cannot work from home.

Analysis of Los Angeles Times data last month also found that younger Latinos and blacks were dying at a disproportionate rate, believing in the conventional wisdom that old age is a major risk factor for death.

Latinos in California are far less likely than whites, Asians and black people to say that working from home in the middle of a pandemic is a choice, according to a new poll California voter from UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies.

About 42% of Latinos surveyed said they could work from home, compared to 53% of blacks, 59% of Asians and 61% of whites. The poll also shows that Latinos are almost three times more likely to worry than white jobs than putting them near other people. This was a particular problem in the first weeks of the pandemic, when masks and other protective equipment were in short supply and many businesses were still trying to implement social distance policies.

“They feel important; they are trying to do their part to get us out of this crisis, “said Jose Lopez, spokeswoman for the Food Chain Workers Alliance based in Los Angeles.” But we cannot provide face masks. We cannot give them space to give them six feet distance among their coworkers. ”

Times analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data shows that Latinos make up less than 40% of the workforce in all industrial sectors that are considered important by the California state government, consistent with their share of the statewide population. But in some sectors, they are highly represented.

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In essential agricultural work, the workforce is more than 80% of Latinos. They also have more than half of the important food work and nearly 60% of construction work is considered important. At the same time, Latinos in the US are more likely than the entire population to say that they or someone in their household have experienced salary cuts or lost their jobs amid a pandemic, according to the Pew Research Center. survey in April.

For weeks, Dr. Marlene Martín, assistant clinical professor at UC San Francisco and a doctor at San Francisco’s Zuckerberg General Hospital, has watched Latino patients with COVID-19 flow into the emergency room. More than 80% of coronavirus patients treated at hospitals at the facility were Latino last month.

They are roofers, cooks, janitors, dishwashers, and delivery drivers. Many of them are under 50 years old. They live in households where social distance is difficult, sometimes with two or three other families. For Martín, a 36-year-old Latina, entering the intensive care unit sometimes feels like being confronted with an annoying mirror.

“It’s full of people who look like me,” he said, “who share the same language and cultural background.”

“You see the extreme of what happens when someone can take shelter or someone can’t. It’s not that people don’t want to stay at home. It’s not that they don’t listen. It’s not that they’re not educated. It’s because they have no choice.”

Victims of many viruses in Latin raise questions about whether employers throughout the US and the government are doing enough to protect these workers.

In Iowa, Latinos constitute about 6% of the population but account for a quarter of all positive cases country calculation. In the state of Washington, Latin represented 35% of all cases are positive, even though only 13% of the population.

The balance between keeping important Latin workers safe and dependent on their workforce is being tested in the city of Hanford, where a coronavirus outbreak in a meatpacking plant now accounts for half of confirmed cases in Kings County.

Around 180 employees at Central Valley Meat Co. was declared positive on Tuesday, according to County Superintendent Doug Verboon. Most employees at the facility – who work close in the middle of “damp and wet working conditions” – are Latinos, he said. Central Valley Meat does not respond to calls or emails from The Times.


Karla Barrera is a deli manager at a Sun Valley grocery store and mother of two children. “I’m very afraid of my baby. I pray that I don’t have it,” Barrera said.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Verboon said the area depended on more Latin workers during the current cherry picking season, which lasts until mid-June. He said a Hanford fruit packing company that employs 800 workers to pick cherries told him that an outbreak similar to the one in Central Valley Meat Co. will be a “big disaster.”

“We cannot make people sick because we have a short working window,” Verboon said.

Lupe Martinez started at the Alta Vista Health & Fitness Center in Riverside last July after her husband, a sheet metal worker and family breadwinner, had a heart attack and had to stop working.

In the laundry room, Martinez – a member of the 2015 Local International Services Workers Union, which represents about 400,000 nursing home workers and nursing homes in California – is surrounded by mostly Latinos and Filipinos. Many of his colleagues do two jobs or do double shifts, wash blankets and blankets, clean shower curtains, handle patient linen.

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Martinez’s family asked him not to go when the virus began to spread in California.

“I told them,” I will trust God. I will not get it, ” he said. “I will go to work. I am worried. “

A few weeks ago, Martinez said, he walked into an old woman’s room to bring his clean clothes. Usually, there is a notification on the door if a patient has an illness that requires staff to wear gloves, masks or other equipment, he said. Nothing was posted, Martinez said, so he entered without a front.

Martinez said the woman told him she felt sick. A few days later, a sign on the door said he was in isolation.

Alta Vista Healthcare & Wellness Center does not reply to calls or emails asking for comments.

On April 13, Martinez returned home with a sore throat, dry cough, and a sore body. He could not taste the tea his son had brought. He struggled to breathe. He went to the hospital before and after a positive COVID-19 test and was sent home, told to try and isolate himself.

When her husband, son and daughter who lived in the house tested positive, she lay in bed, crying to God.

Another son and his wife live in the back house on the property. She’s a barber. He is a dental health expert. They are currently not leaving home to work. They haven’t gotten COVID-19.

Because he hasn’t worked in a nursing home for a year, Martinez said, he doesn’t qualify for sick pay. He has applied for state disability but has not heard from him. Martinez said he felt he had to go back to work.

“My children don’t want me to come back,” Martinez said. “But I have a bill. I know this is my life, but – I don’t know.”

Rosa Arenas, another union member and certified nursing assistant at Orange Nursing Home, said she was tested after finding out a patient tested positive for COVID-19 last month. On May 2, Arena was stated positive.

Now, she is isolated in one of her family’s apartment rooms, far from her husband and two children, ages 12 and 6, who are declared negative. She spent Mother’s Day reading the Bible alone and video chatting with her children and husband from the other side of the door.

“My children say they are sad they will not give me a Mother’s Day hug,” said Arenas, 32 ,. “It breaks my heart.”

He said there were not enough personal protective equipment at work and colleagues had been infected. Her husband, a landscaper, was recently sent home by his employer to be quarantined and tested, and he had burned all of his paid vacation and sick time while quarantined at home. And he missed work.


Rafael Saavedra, 40, outside his home last week in the Alhambra.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

When Rafael Saavedra, a 40-year-old truck driver from the Alhambra, came home from work, he undressed in his garage, threw his clothes in the washing machine and rushed to the bathroom, careful not to touch anything inside. His biggest fear is infecting his daughters, ages 16 and 6.

At the San Pedro shipping center, where he and hundreds of other drivers deliver documents and rest, he hardly ever finds soap or hand sanitizers.

Employees who normally work at the center now work remotely, and there is little communication with drivers about how they can stay safe, Saavedra said. The driver was given a single thin mask about a month ago and nothing else, he said.

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Saavedra said most of the drivers who worked with him were Latino immigrants who struggled to overcome the pandemic due to language barriers and lack of resources.

“They don’t know their rights. They are afraid to talk. They live in their cocoons,” he said.

Saavedra has carved out a comfortable life for his family. He often travels with his wife and daughter, who attend private Christian schools. But his salary was cut in half due to reduced working hours. He was afraid of losing his house.

His wife, a nurse at the Pasadena homeless shelter, reduced his own time for fear of contracting the virus and infecting their daughters.

Sonia Hernandez, who is raising four children as a single mother, has worked as a cook at McDonald’s in Monterey Park for 18 years and earns more than $ 14 per hour, said her daughter, Jenniffer Barrera Hernandez.

In early April, Hernandez was hospitalized with COVID-19 and was in a coma for weeks.

“They told us that he would not make it through the day and we had to decide whether he wanted to go peacefully or do chest compressions to try and get a pulse,” Barrera Hernandez said. “It’s very difficult to make that decision.”

Miraculously, said Barrera Hernandez, her mother woke up.

After being diagnosed, Hernandez’s coworkers quit their jobs to ask for safety supplies, including masks, gloves, soap and hand sanitizers. Barrera Hernandez said after he called McDonald to notify the company that his mother tested positive, he did not get a call back.

“That’s very sad, because my mother really likes the job. You provide for a company for so long, and in the end you are just a number.”

Hernandez began to recover at his home in South LA. He was very tired and could not walk or even hold the phone for too long, his daughter said. He felt guilty he could not go back to work.

David Tovar, McDonald U.S. vice president of communications, said many of Barrera Hernandez’s statements and several employees were wrong.

He said McDonald’s restaurants, including the one where Hernandez worked, already had sufficient supplies of soap, hand sanitizers and cleaning supplies and closed overnight once a week for deep cleaning. Tovar said the restaurant had been opened only for takeout, with social distance requirements imposed and bathrooms closed.

When McDonald learned of Hernandez’s diagnosis on April 8, the company immediately notified four crew members that he had contact with, he said.

“We respect Ms. Hernandez and all the employees at McDonald’s very much, but it’s not fair to let them try to tell you a story that is not true,” Tovar said. “We are a large company with diverse employees, especially Latinos. We want everyone who comes to work for McDonald’s to have a good experience. “

When Mariana Lui’s mother got a letter from her supervisor in March saying she was an important worker, she announced it with pride.

Ms. Lui, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who works in the San Fernando food production warehouse that makes food for school, told her daughter that she had never been considered “important”. Now, he said, people need it.

But then his colleagues, many of them undocumented Latinas, began to get sick. They stopped appearing on the assembly line, where, he said, they piled the ingredients on the sandwich while standing shoulder to shoulder.

Ms. Lui spoke to The Times on condition of anonymity because she was afraid of losing her job. Lui, who also spoke with The Times, is a 31-year-old legal administration assistant in Whittier with a different surname than her mother.

Ms. Lui, 50, said that her colleagues took aspirin and continued to work, despite suffering from fever and headaches. Then he began to show symptoms.

“I’m getting tired at work and I’m coughing a little,” he said. “I didn’t think it would be very serious, so I continued to work for three or four days.”

A few days later, he tested positive for COVID-19.

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