FIU Professor Indicates COVID-19 Impact On Low-Income Communities

Oraida Rodriguez / Contributing Writer

Minorities have been disproportionately suffering during the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of obstacles around health, income, and living situations. 

According to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), minorities are far more likely to be exposed to, get infected by, and die from COVID-19 when compared to Non-Hispanic whites.

Marianna Baum, a professor at the Robert Stempel College of Health and Social Work who is studying the impact of COVID-19 on economically disadvantaged communities, indicated they have a higher risk of contracting the virus.

“Minority and underrepresented communities are not sufficiently tested, and we really don’t know the rate of COVID-19 positivity in those minorities,” said Baum.  

Minority communities may be less inclined to get tested because of the obstacles that come from it. In Miami, free testing is offered in specific locations through drive-throughs or walk-ins. However, this in itself is demanding to some since Miami does not offer a lot of walk-in testing sites, and the drive-through sites have lengthy wait times.

“If you see on TV there’s testing centers you see long car lanes. Well, a lot of these people don’t have cars so, what are they going to do? Stand in line for four, five or six hours? That doesn’t happen. They just don’t have good access to testing,” said Baum. 

According to the John Hopkins School of Medicine, high rates of infection in these communities come from a variety of factors, such as crowded living, chronic health conditions, and lack of healthcare.

To Brianna Valdes, an FIU Hispanic freshman majoring in crime science, the higher rates of infection among minority groups is not surprising.

“Most people who are still working and essential workers are minorities that don’t really have the luxury of staying home,” said Valdes. “I mean it makes sense, money is really important and most of us don’t really have the option to limit exposure because that could mean risking our jobs.”

Valdes believes that the higher number of cases among minority communities in the U.S. is rooted in income inequality and health disparities.

Income inequality has been studied and documented by the U.S. Census, showing that, overall, minorities make significantly less money than Caucasians. Communities that live in poverty are far more likely to develop severe illnesses and not have as much access to medical care than higher-income communities.

According to the American Diabetes Association, those with underlying health complications, such as diabetes, are more susceptible to having severe symptoms when sick with COVID-19.

For example, the CDC has released a study confirming that in the U.S., Hispanics/Latinos are 17% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Another similar study was done, showing comparable results for Black Americans. 

“Minorities [are more likely] to be overweight, and that’s a comorbidity, which means when you are overweight, or have diabetes, or have a heart disease, or have respiratory disease, you’re more likely to get really sick, you end up in a hospital, and die,” said Baum.

Another issue that plagues these communities comes from income. According to The Economist, vulnerable populations are more likely to work essential jobs that put them in close proximity with others. These jobs are less likely to be done from home. This disparity allows the virus to spread faster in these communities.

With the rise of COVID-19 cases, those in low-income neighborhoods are struggling the most.

FIU student David Luis, a sophomore studying public administration, discussed his experiences with the virus in his neighborhood, Hialeah Gardens. His parents both had to reduce their work hours, whereas some others from his community lost their jobs altogether.

“I live in a mobile home park and there are many mobile homes that have had [COVID-19] cases. A bunch of people has lost their jobs,” Luis said. “Poorer neighborhoods basically don’t have the testing availability that’s needed to have a safe and secure environment.”

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