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Left Behind: How the Latine community has been marginalized and continues to reel from the COVID-19 pandemic

  • September 22, 2023

Four years into the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns remain about the continuing impact on Latine people. 

The Latino/Latina community has been significantly marginalized due to a lot of different issues that are unique and specific to that community,” said Cal State East Bay Professor Brandon Philips. “There is a disconnect between what is available and what is accessible.

Systemic disparities — including lack of access to health care, food insecurity and exposure to coronavirus from jobs that require them to work outside the home were aggravated by the pandemic and continue to pose a threat. According to the CDC, while the number of cases and deaths linked to COVID-19 has decreased in the U.S., Latine people comprise 24 percent of all COVID-19 cases, while only making up 19 percent of the total population. 

While efforts continue to be made to raise awareness of the deadly virus, Philips says there must be a focus on cultural competency — to understand that many in this community have reasons to distrust formalized structures. Communication and engagement need to go beyond printing pamphlets and signs in Spanish. 

“It is about understanding those historical precedents that have been set for this community, understanding how to best engage with formalized structures including hospitals and doctors’ offices,” said Philips. “These are all issues that can be integrated into organizations if they make concerted efforts to make connections with the communities they serve.”

Philips suggests this can be done by having those who serve you, look like you and going so far as to simulate a warm, welcoming hacienda — something he saw being done at a non-profit community organization in Texas. “When you come in one of the first things they do is offer you something to drink and something to eat before they even ask you why you are there,’ said Philips. 

As communities adapt to a world that includes COVID-19, there is a push to remain vigilant and to continue to learn from one of the deadliest pandemics in modern history in order to prepare us for future emergencies. 

“We can learn from COVID-19 and take those lessons and apply them more widely to institutions moving forward,” said Philips. “Fundamentally, there is a need to understand the population you are serving. If I could task organizations to do anything it would be to change the way they deliver their services so they can make a greater impact for marginalized communities.