PHOENIX — Hundreds of Arizonans are dying every day from COVID-19 and the impact is being felt in communities of color at a higher rate than in other communities.
“The Hispanic community had about 380 deaths in the last week of December; 154 of those deaths were COVID-19 deaths,” stated Garret Archer, ABC15’s Data Analyst.
Archer says the Latino community was hit particularly hard during the summer surge, but new data is showing alarming numbers from this new wave.
“40% of the deaths in that week were from COVID-19 for that particular community. That's just such a tremendous number. 40% in one week of all deaths in a specific ethnic community it’s just, it’s incredible,” expressed Garrett.
Too many people, taken too soon. Leslie Lopez and Anna Hernandez say they know first-hand the pain of losing their loved one to COVID-19.
“In April, we lost some family members due to COVID in Mexico. In June, I lost my husband, and just recently, two weeks ago, I lost my grandpa,” said Lesslie Lopez.
“My dad got sick before Thanksgiving. He was exposed, he contracted the virus and ultimately he couldn’t fight it and passed away on January 6, 2021,” said Anna Hernandez.
In a recent town hall by Mayo Clinic, medical experts shared that 60,298 Latinos have died of COVID-19 nationally.
So why are Latinos dying at a higher rate?
“Just the disparity of access to healthy food. Healthy food is hard to come within our communities like it is in affluent neighborhoods,” stated Hernandez.
The Latino community has been disproportionately affected during the pandemic in Arizona.
Areas with high Latino populations in the state have been facing a lack of access to medical care or bilingual information about the virus.
In June, residents of Maryvale, an area with a 75% Latino population, experienced almost 14 hours in line waiting to get tested for COVID-19.
At that time, Maryvale was considered among the top five zip codes for coronavirus cases.
ABC15 reported recently about the need of interpreters at a vaccination site in Glendale, another area with a large Latino population.
Throughout the pandemic, the Latino community has also been suffering the consequences of a digital divide and from the lack of protection at work. Many people in underserved communities don’t have the option to work from home.
Lastly, rural areas like Yuma county are facing a vaccine shortage. The county is a hotspot for the virus, it has a large Latino population and the highest infection rate in the state.
“I think it just really exposes the imbalance of our people,” said Hernandez.
Another issue is the mistrust in the healthcare system.
“There’s a lot of people that don’t believe in it. They say it’s just like the flu,” said Lopez.
But COVID-19 is nothing like the flu.
“I never thought there would be a pandemic. There’s been flu outbreaks, but I never thought that it would have been to this volume,” stated Azhar Dabdu who manages a funeral home in Tucson.
Dabdu says in 20 years, this is the first time he’s seen so many Latinos dying so quickly.
His funeral home transports Latino immigrants who died of COVID-19 related issues. He says they take them from phoenix hospitals to his funeral home in Tucson then to their families in their home countries.
“They feel hopeless cause they can’t come over to the U.S.,” said Dabdu.
Dabdu says he feels sad when he drives back to Tucson because they are tragedies that could have been prevented.
“It’s very important for everyone to keep washing their hands and get tested as frequently as possible.”
According to Mayo Clinic, we need 70% of the U.S. population vaccinated in order to reach herd immunity. But the lack of access to information about the COVID-19 vaccine in Spanish is leading some Latinos to not want to get vaccinated.
“We need more information cause honestly, I’m really scared, and I don’t want to risk it,” expressed Marysol Olivera.
For Dabdu, only the vaccine can help to avoid so many deaths.
“Everybody is at risk still to end up at a hospital or at a funeral home.”
Some local organizations are hosting public town halls in English and Spanish to educate the community about the COVID-19 vaccine:
January 26, at 6 p.m. Brophy Prep: ¿Qué debe saber la comunidad latina sobre las vacunas contra el COVID-19?
January 28, from 5 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. ET. Mayo Clinic: COVID-19 vaccine: virtual town hall for minority communities of faith