The Curious Case of Hispanic COVID-19 Patients

by James A. Bacon

In Fairfax County, Latinos comprise about 16% of the population yet 60% of the county’s COVID-19 cases. A recent health study described the neighborhood of a Hispanic woman profiled by WAMU, Ana Mejia, as an “island of disadvantage.” A third of the neighborhood’s children live in poverty, and more than half the residents are uninsured. Workers are more likely to be exposed to infection at work and then bring it home to their cramped apartments.

You know the routine. The wind-up: WAMU quotes Luis Aguilar, head of immigrant advocacy group CASA Virginia, as saying that Latinos are disadvantaged because many undocumented immigrants do not qualify for Medicaid, unemployment benefits or stimulus checks from the federal government. And the pitch: “The approach of relying on non-profits to step in during a pandemic … there needs to be a lot more from the local government,” he says.

In other words, there needs to be more money from taxpayers. “Fairfax County is one of the top five wealthiest counties in the United States of America, and if Fairfax can’t afford testing for its low-income residents, that would really surprise me,” the article quotes state Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Mount Vernon, as saying.

You have to read deep into the article before you run across this tidbit: County epidemiologist Rene Najera said he noticed one encouraging sign. Spanish-speaking patients seem to be surviving the disease. “We’re talking about a generally younger population, maybe a little bit more resilient. It might be getting them to the hospital but it might not be killing them at a higher rate.”

Indeed, the statistics are startling. While Hispanics are significantly more likely than the general population to have confirmed cases of COVID-19, they are less likely to be hospitalized, and far less likely to die. Talk about disparities!

Here’s how the Virginia Department of Health dashboard breaks down confirmed COVID-19 cases by Hispanic vs. non-Hispanic ethnicity:

Hispanics account for about 15% of Virginia’s population but nearly 43% of all COVID-19 cases. The disparity in infection rates is roughly comparable statewide to what it is in Fairfax County. But a funny thing happens when you look at hospitalization rates.

While 43% of COVID-19 cases are Hispanic, only 32% of hospital admissions for the disease are Hispanic. And even more remarkably….

… Only 11% of those who die from COVID-19 are Hispanic! As a percentage of the population, fewer Hispanics have died from the virus than non-Hispanics.

How do those numbers comport with the dominant media/ruling class narrative that view every issue through the lens of racial/ethnic disparity, attributes disparities between groups to differential access to public resources, and calls in every case for more spending by one level of government or another?

Here’s my first question: If Latinos are so dramatically under-served that Fairfax County needs to step in and spend more money on testing in their neighborhoods, how do we know that so many Hispanics have contracted COVID-19? Those people had to be tested, right? So, clearly a lot of testing has occurred. If you want to make the case that there is a disparity in access to testing, show me the data that shows Hispanics are being tested less frequently. The WAMU story presents none whatsoever. It’s possible that Hispanics are, in fact, less likely to be tested, but no one has presented any evidence to prove that it is. I do not accept such sweeping assertions as an article of faith that needs no proof.

Here’s my second observation: If Hispanics suffer from such a differential access to Virginia’s health care system, how come so many manage to get into hospitals? Is the fact that they are being hospitalized at higher rates than the rest of the population a sign of unequal access to healthcare? (The question of who pays for that access is a different question for a different discussion.)

And a third observation: How come so few Hispanics, relatively speaking, are dying from the disease? Clearly, age is a factor. Hispanics in Virginia are significantly younger than other Virginians — a median age of 27 compared to 38. Deaths from the virus are highly correlated with age, and the population of over-80 Hispanics in Virginia is very small. On the other hand, does age account for the full difference? Do Hispanics have other characteristics — for example, fewer co-existing conditions that also affect mortality rates? Do Hispanics do something — do they have more nutritious diets, do they work more outdoors — that might make them more resistant?

There are many potentially useful questions we could be asking but aren’t because the media and public health authorities are locked into a particular paradigm for viewing the world. The priority in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic should be halting the spread and saving lives, not re-affirming the Oppression Narrative.

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20 responses to “The Curious Case of Hispanic COVID-19 Patients”

  1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    “Hispanics account for about 15% of Virginia’s population but nearly 43% of all COVID-19 cases … Only 11% of those who die from COVID-19 are Hispanic! As a percentage of the population, fewer Hispanics have died from the virus than non-Hispanics.”

    This medical pandemic suddenly now is morphing into a politicized, race hustling pandemic, an affliction that has been growing by leaps in bounds in Virginia since its infamous spring and summer of 2017, when Virginia began to fall apart as a modern, functional society, becoming a tribal society instead. This unfortunate turn of events are thanks largely to its corrupted educational system, and its rabid brand of politics, all of both forced on Virginia citizens by those new leaders suddenly in power.

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore


      In answer to your early inquiry about the flu season in Virginia, I got a reply from VDH and a link to its influenza report. There is a lot of data in there, but in summary: In the 2019-2020 flu season (as of April 20), there had been 11,883 reported infections and 2,695 pneumonia and influenza-associated deaths. This most recent season had the third highest reported infections of the last 7 seasons.

  2. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Interesting. CDC data confirms. Go to table 2a. Nationwide Americans with both Hispanic and Asian ancestry are dying at rates well below their proportion of the population, while non-Hispanic whites and African-Americans are exceeding their proportions. You don’t hear that about the white patients, but there it is. For them the disparate impact is the greatest, 52% of deaths while 40% of population. Don’t tell the MSM….

    Age is probably the major factor. I remain persuaded that age, hypertension, obesity, etc matter most: now adding vitamin D deficiency, which is tied up in the others.

    The problem with even the CDC data is it ignores the genetic reality that these are artificial demarcations with more and more individuals actually checking more than one box. (Again, that is also an age thing, representing the social changes in the last 30 years or so.) Reed’s right, this is just a political game being played for political advantage.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      I agree Steve.

      But it is also the great decline in the health of a large percentage of white Americans that are driving these death numbers. Many books are now out on subject. But all one need do to see and confirm it is to walk into a Walmart today to see the obvious. The crisis is everywhere to be seen. This is the cohort of American society that is in a real crisis. There culture, their roots, their faith, their jobs, and now their lives, jobs and communities, have been taken from them.

      This is the real crisis that no one in control of main stream media wants to talk about. Why? Because it does not serve their private interests and ideologies.

      1. Steve Haner Avatar
        Steve Haner

        Just pay close attention to who buys the advertising. The fast food purveyors and the drug companies NEED the obesity epidemic to grow. The MSM bites not the hand which feeds…..

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          ah…there’s some wisdom in those words…

  3. TBill Avatar

    It’s only been a week or two that we have the more detailed case data from Fairfax County:

    Certainly the Hispanic community data for NoVA is at least extremely interesting. Also interesting is that the Non-Hispanic Black community is not showing any problem.

    While I applaud the new, more open data policy in Virginia, we are still not being told who is going to the hospital with COVID. Is it strictly group settings like nursing homes? Or is it grocery shoppers? Or is it people who have to go to work in vulnerable group settings, and then spreading to their families? Is it social groups not adhering to social distancing guidelines? Does it have to do with vaccination practices earlier in our lives?

    I am struck by a comment a month ago by Fairfax Chairman McKay, something like 45% of Ffx households do not speak English in their households. So there is the communication element.

    P.S.- We are still showing about 300 new cases a day here, and that is higher than ever. Part of that is due to more testing, they say.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Unlike many Americans, Hispanics and Asians have strong, vibrant, often large and close families, living and thriving together. This spreads the virus. But at the very same time, it protects them against the most serious consequences of the virus.


      Because it’s the environment that human beings most often need for their own health, competence, and sense of well being, particularly those who are not elite.

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      TMT has alluded to the fact that in NoVa -where housing is expensive, that many lower-economic tier workers – not related to each other – have joined together to rent or buy houses… so they go out each day to different jobs then come home at night to congregate as unrelated cohabitants of a house.

      In terms of health care. If a service level worker sharing a house with others has no health insurance, guess what happens when someone gets sick? They continue to work and to co-habit the house until they are so sick they have to go to the ER.

      This is what happens to people who do not have insurance. They’re NOT going to the ER only to find out they don’t have COVID19 and they end up with a $3000 bill…

  4. Acbar Avatar

    Jim, your observations invite a fourth: is the extraordinary Hispanic percentage of covid cases in Fairfax, yet with lower mortality, a consequence of Hispanics taking the disease much more seriously, seeking testing and going to the hospital as soon as they have symptoms or even exposure, rather than staying home in mild- or asymptomatic bliss until near death? In other words, is this a cultural response which indicts the response of others? Or, as TBill suggests, is this, perhaps, a benefit all of us would derive from easily-accessible free testing of everyone who asks for it?

    1. That’s a possibility I had not considered. But you’re absolutely right, the cultural response of different ethnic/racial groups may differ. I don’t know that to be a fact, but we cannot just dismiss the possibility because it doesn’t fit our preferred narrative.

      If Hispanics are more likely to be proactive and get tested, perhaps we should inquire into the reasons why — and whether lessons can be learned and applied to the population at large.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        it matters what economic tier the demographic is in.

        When we say “wealthy” are we look across the demographics at “wealthy”?

  5. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Yep, table 2a is revealing as is acbar’s observation

  6. djrippert Avatar

    Why is this a surprise? First, realize that we are dealing with the law of very small relative numbers. 16% of NoVa’s population is about 320,000 people (depending on how you define NoVa). There have been 7,263 reported cases of COVID19 among Hispanics in NoVa. That’s 2.3% of the Hispanic population.

    Many Hispanics in NoVa were or are undocumented workers or illegal aliens, whatever term you prefer. They came to the US with limited educations seeking employment opportunities. Many gravitated to work in manual labor occupations. Many of these occupations have not been shut down as part of the COVID19 epidemic. The odds of Hispanics being employed in manual labor occupations are high and the odds of those employed in manual labor occupations getting infected are also high. Again, remember we are talking about 2.3% of the Hispanic population being tested positive.

    Why the low death rate? As noted, Hispanics in NoVa are typically younger than non-Hispanics. Beyond the median age statistic I strongly suspect that the age curve for NoVa Hispanics is truncated on the older side. Older Hispanics did not typically immigrate to the US. How many times have we heard of undocumented / illegal Hispanic workers sending money back to their families in the their countries of origin?

    Finally, people who work in manual labor occupations tend to be fit. I once pushed a lawn mower at the Pentagon five days a week as a summer job in high school. I once worked as a furniture mover over the summer in Charlottesville while in college. Trust me – constant manual labor has its physical fitness benefits.

    There is nothing really curious about this.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      I think DJ is on it. I think it’s more complex than just looking at the percentage of Hispanic… and their COVID19 numbers.

      The correlation is worth recognizing. But how you interpret the correlation is, in my mind, rife with potential errors unless you really fully understand the demographics.

      A LOT of the work that low income Hisapanics do – is still being done and is not “restricted”, it’s considered “essential” and I suspect what we are looking at is that fact.

      Just take nursing homes as an example.

      What WOULD BE perhaps more interesting would be to look at the infection rates by occupation of the jobs that are still being performed.

    2. TBill Avatar

      Agree that the age distribution of the NoVA Hispanic population is a missing data point that could explain the death rate difference. Possibly we have a lot of Hispanic nurses and health care workers.

      Lawn mowing at the Pentagon? Hmm I think I know who gets lawn mowing duty at the military bases.

  7. Nancy_Naive Avatar

    The disease depends on people to move it. It may be that Hispanics are more mobile than the other races in NOVA. More movement up and down the I-95 corridor. Maybe they made up 40 to 60% of the short-term visitors from the NY,NJ area in the March timeframe?

    1. djrippert Avatar

      I doubt that Hispanics are more mobile. However, many Hispanics in NoVa live in intergenerational homes or homes with unrelated people living together. This is a combination of below average incomes for Hispanics in NoVa and above average housing prices. As soon as you have one person in a home going out to work every day you’ll find it very hard to isolate the other members of the household. Especially when that person car pools with three other people going to the same construction site or supermarket for employment. My guess is that the housing situation is more likely the challenge than higher than average mobility.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        eh.. let me guess… since we both basically agree… is this some sort of liberal “oppression” thing like Bacon is suggestiing?

      2. Nancy_Naive Avatar

        Chinatown buses. Google it.

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