PHOENIX — A comprehensive study administered by the Centers for Disease Control on Hispanic and African American children contracting COVID-19 found that Latinos are eight times more likely than white children to be hospitalized for the virus and African American children are five times more likely.
"The study's findings are not surprising at all," says Tolleson Union High School District Assistant Superintendent Juan Ceja.
Ceja shared with ABC15 that while the virus doesn't attack a specific person based on race, the access to quality healthcare is among the top reasons why Latinos and Black children are among the most severely impacted by the novel virus.
"The fact that their parents have these jobs as front-line essential workers makes them out to be more susceptible," adds Ceja. His district, huddled in the West Valley, is comprised of primarily Hispanic children and families.
Dr. Eduardo Alcantar, Medical Director for Valle Del Sol, says he has treated COVID-19 patients since the onset of the pandemic, with roughly 15 patients being severely affected by the virus.
He says that when it comes to Latinos, there is one Latino doctor for every 62,000 Latinos in Maricopa County. He attributes the study's findings to a cultural difference in the way Latino families care for and reach out for healthcare from providers.
"They say, 'I will try the 'remedies' and different ways to take care of my child.' And thank god in a way, those 'remedios' do work, but sometimes when parents wait a long time it’s when we see these disasters," says Dr. Alcantar.
Another key factor the study found, nearly 40% of children who were hospitalized due to COVID-19 were found to have obesity as an underlying health condition. The next underlying health condition found was "lung health issues" at around 20%.
Dr. Alcantar says Latino children have seen a steady increase in obesity over the last decade, surpassing those of other racial groups, including African American and Asian American children.
"The rates of obesity have increased big time," says Dr. Alcantar.
Both Ceja and Dr. Alcantar agree that minorities are over-represented when it comes to those classified as "essential workers." The likelihood of the essential worker being provided with quality healthcare they both agree, is doubtful.
"If their socio-economic status is lower, they are going to have less access to quality healthcare," says Ceja.
Janelle Woods, a community activist with Black Mothers Forum and an active member in the south Phoenix community, agrees with the experts about minorities and the disparities in healthcare. She believes as minorities, a proactive approach with healthier, planned meals is a good start at reducing the risk level of becoming severely ill due to COVID-19.
“Also, show up and get tested at those free testing sites. I think they are going to stop those here shortly so, if you have not taken the time to get yourself tested as well as your whole family, why don’t we do that," says Woods.