The Shocking Number of Hispanic COVID-19 Deaths for Ages 35 to 64

by Carol J. Bova

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) death certificate reports are the one reliable indicator of the impact of Covid-19 on the various population groups in Virginia. The CDC racial/ethnic breakdown from 2/1/20 to 7/4/20 of all deaths from COVID-19 alone, together with COVID-19 and pneumonia, shows Virginia Hispanics accounted for 12.6% of all COVID-19 deaths. That does not appear to be far out of line with a 10% Hispanic population in the Commonwealth in 2018, especially when allowing for an unknown number of undocumented Hispanic persons plus Hispanic population increases since then.

What is shockingly out of line is the CDC Virginia death certificate numbers show 42.7% of Hispanic COVID-19 deaths within the 35- to 64-year-old age bracket, as shown in the chart above.

Why has this happened? Are comorbidities like diabetes, auto-immune conditions or obesity responsible?

Hispanic workers are known for their work ethic. Is that part of the reason for these numbers?  Did they continue working out of economic necessity or dedication? How many worked in long term care facilities and how many in meat or poultry production?

Were those who died at these younger ages living in substandard housing?

Did they not seek health care before the virus caused a catastrophic illness, or was treatment ineffective?

Were they undocumented and afraid to reveal their illness?

Were there other reasons?

Everyone needs to stop blaming systemic racism as a cause and relying on news media and politicians posturing about inequities. We need to demand the Office of Health Equity investigate and document the facts and then formulate real life solutions.

Carol J. Bova is a writer residing in Mathews County.

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29 responses to “The Shocking Number of Hispanic COVID-19 Deaths for Ages 35 to 64

  1. Carol, demographics tell part of the tale. There are far higher percentages of whites over 65 than Hispanics. In 2017, there were 50.9 million Americans age 65 and over.

    The Hispanic American population (of any race) age 65 and over was 4,204,122 in 2017.https://acl.gov/sites/default/files/Aging%20and%20Disability%20in%20America/2018HA_OAProfile.pdf.

    So while Hispanics are approximately 18% of the population https://www.pewresearch.org/hispanic/fact-sheet/latinos-in-the-u-s-fact-sheet/, they are only 8.2% of the population over 65. And half of Hispanics in America live in two states, California and Texas.

    In Virginia, Hispanics and Latino persons are 9.8% of the population.(census bureau)

  2. Yes, Jim Sherlock, you’re correct, but that doesn’t explain the Virginia numbers. I found additional information in the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report of July 10 that supports the questions I asked, specifically, diabetes is almost certainly a key factor. In a detailed review of over 10,000 COVID-19 deaths, almost twice as many Hispanics under 65 who died of COVID-19 had diabetes (49.6%) compared to those over 85 (25.9%).
    Hispanics have higher rates of diabetes than non-Hispanics, and a number of journal articles in the National Institutes of Health PubMed files discuss the genetic predisposition to diabetes in Hispanics. This is an area where public health workers can use community diabetes testing and education programs to reduce the risk of COVID-19 complications and deaths as well as other medical conditions.

  3. The MMWR also shows state public health agencies are not doing a good job of providing all the information CDC needs to analyze factors in COVID-19 deaths. CDC is seeing comorbidities vary among different ethnic and racial groupings. The lethal combinations are not the same across the board. Data on more than 52,000 deaths was not adequate for CDC to use in analysis because information on underlying medical conditions and place of death were missing. When CDC went back to get additional information on the 10,000 deaths they could analyze, decedent age varied by race and ethnicity, but “the percentages of Hispanic (34.9%) and nonwhite (29.5%) decedents who were aged less than 65 years were more than twice those of white decedents (13.2).”

    If the governor and his administration want to do more than talk, they can see that VDH cleans up their reporting and gets all the data CDC needs including racial/ethnic status from the lab reports. The Health Commissioner has the authority and the federal regs are going to require it by August anyway, so why not start now? Without the background data, all the COVID testing in the world won’t supply the answers needed to change the outcome.

  4. Though it might seem fairly simple, trying to get agencies to collect data consistently is a bit like herding cats. The federal government has been trying to get all its agencies to use the same race/ethnicity definitions since 1997. The CDC and many other agencies generally don’t follow the 1997 OMB classification system.

    The task is a good deal more complicated when you try to get people to answer race/ethnicity questions consistently. People from Spanish speaking countries mostly don’t identify with the concept of being Hispanic/Latino:https://www.pewresearch.org/hispanic/2012/04/04/when-labels-dont-fit-hispanics-and-their-views-of-identity/2012-phc-identity-04/ so their race/ethnicity responses often change from Census to Census:https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/working-papers/2014/adrm/carra-wp-2014-09.pdf

    • “People from Spanish speaking countries mostly don’t identify with the concept of being Hispanic/Latino.

      This is a fascinating observation. I suppose people from Spanish-speaking countries identify with their countries of origin, where there is no ethnic classification such as “Latino” or “Hispanic.” Only when they come to the U.S. are they encouraged to think of themselves that way. If the “Latino” ethnic classification did not grow organically from the people themselves, it must be an outgrowth of…. of what? Government policy? NGO activism? Who benefits?

      • Federal: from OMB
        About Hispanic Origin

        The U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requires federal agencies to use a minimum of two ethnicities in collecting and reporting data: Hispanic or Latino and Not Hispanic or Latino. OMB defines “Hispanic or Latino” as a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.

      • There is a good book from the early 2000s called the Minority Rights Revolution that explores how Hispanic/Latino was made into a census ethnicity through lobbying.

        As a demographer I appreciate having more categories to analyze the population but it is important to keep in mind some categories have less consistency than others. Census data shows that over time the U.S. Hispanic population has shifted more towards identifying as white, from less than half in 2000 to close to two-thirds today. So there is a certain amount of irony seeing agencies expend a lot of effort to count them as non-white.

        • “Census data shows that over time the U.S. Hispanic population has shifted more towards identifying as white, from less than half in 2000 to close to two-thirds today.”

          Another fascinating revelation. A majority of “Hispanics” identify as white, but certain parties insist upon describing them as “people of color.”

          • Hamilton Lombard

            A third of Hispanics don’t identify as white, which if counted separately would be a minority group the size of Asian Americans. But I think most people who use the term “people of color” apply it to all Hispanics.

          • Parents were German immigrants to Mexico–“Hispanic.” A family that can trace Spanish aristocratic roots–“Hispanic.” Descended from African slaves in Belize – “Hispanic.” Ten generations of Mexican ancestors including European and Native American — “Hispanic.” It is meaningless. Just another melting pot.

          • Reed Fawell 3rd

            Yes, a very significant number of Mexican citizens identify themselves racially as white Europeans, without native American or black blood in their genealogy.

  5. I just looked at the CDC page and the pattern holds nationally. Of deaths among those aged 35-44, 46% are identified as Hispanic and of those 25-35, it’s 39%. That’s statistically significant. It is probably pre-existing conditions coupled with the high percentage of those folks who kept working, in jobs with high human contact. But there is no evidence that “being Hispanic” in and of itself is a risk factor, because of course there is no medical or genetic rationale that would make it so.

  6. Steve Haner, actually other CDC articles say it’s the dyads and triads of comorbidities that are distinct to each grouping, whether it’s Hispanic, Native American, Alaskan Indian, Black, Asian or White, along with the high contact rates. It’s the rates of chronic heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease and lung disease and the various pairings of them that are emerging as the major distinguishing factors in severe COVID illness and deaths. That’s why there’s not one treatment that will work for everyone.

    • Yes, and time and ink spent trying make this about race or national origin is time not spent on addressing the real concerns.

      • Steve, it’s not about making it about race or national origin. I personally can’t address the real concerns as you call them in a practical way. I can share information and acknowledge there are issues common to many, not all, in specific groups and call for real life solutions from those who are supposed to be addressing the concerns. You never know what information will lead to action by someone who can make a difference.

  7. “What is shockingly out of line is the CDC Virginia death certificate numbers show 42.7% of Hispanic COVID-19 deaths within the 35- to 64-year-old age bracket, as shown in the chart above.”

    Compare that statistic in Virginia with this claim in California as reported in today’s WSJ:

    “Though Latinos are more likely to be infected by the coronavirus, they are less likely to die from it, according to state health data. Of those who have died from Covid-19 in California, 42% are Latino.

    Public-health experts said that is because Latinos are younger, on average. The me- dian age of Hispanic people in the U.S. is 30, according to the Pew Research Center, compared with 44 for white people, 34 for Black people, and 37 for Asian-Americans.

    Younger people are less likely to die from a coronavirus infection, if they don’t have underlying health conditions, according to publicly available data about those who have died from Covid-19.”

    See Wall Street Journal’s Latino’s Bear Brunt in California.

    Remember Latino’s make up a far higher percentage of California’s population and infection rate. Why would Virginia be so different as to deaths relative to population and infection rates?

  8. Key phrase: if they don’t have underlying health conditions

    Also as far as California goes, how many of their Hispanic workers are outdoor farm workers vs Virginia indoor occupations? I don’t recall hearing about Hispanic COVID in the seafood industry in Virginia, have you?

    • “I don’t recall hearing about Hispanic COVID in the seafood industry in Virginia, have you?”

      Yes, goo point. Likely key to mystery is something akin to nursing home, but in reverse, as regards demographics.

  9. Sounds like Dr Northam needs to answer some tough systemic racism questions. I have seen the focus on inner city testing at the housing projects in RVA.
    Why isn’t he supporting brown health? And we thought the Orangeman was bad?
    Maybe Dr Northam should have another special session to focus on Latinx Reforms as his administration is disproportionally failing that group.

  10. NorrhsideDude Check out the Northam Jun 18 press briefing where he tried to show how supportive he is.

  11. Carol – you did good! I agree with Hamilton Lombard on the data.. it’s all over the map because different agencies collecting different stuff at different times and when trying to aggregate/compile it – you’re going to see inconsistencies.

    But you did get past all that to get to the core of the data and on to the meaning of it.

    I would just add with comorbidities – if you don’t have health insurance, you’re not going to get treatment to manage your condition.

    Also – the cost of insulin is through the roof unless the recently passed bill in the GA takes hold.

    People who are low income, don’t have insurance but do have diabetes cannot afford the insulin – and without the insulin – you die quicker. And those who know, know that once you have diabetes, losing weight won’t undo it – it’s will you the rest of your life – and if not managed, it ravages your cardiovascular system and your organs like the liver and pancreas.

    It can and does happen to 35 year olds who cannot afford insulin.

  12. You can often avert diabetes by addressing pre-diabetes with diet and lifestle changes (exercise and weight control). Don’t need insurance for that if community health dept. arranges testing and education. You can go a long way without insulin if you work on early control.

  13. early control comes from screening and treatment though and last I heard, we do not have community-based clinics who proactively reach out and invite people for “free” help.

    If you do not have a regular doctor – who regularly screens you for pre-diabetes, you’re going to get it. In fact, even if you DO have health insurance AND a regular doctor AND she screens you – you may still become diabetic and need active / continuous treatment AND some kind of medication like metformin or other help.

    Beyond that – once you have diabetes – what are you going to do if you cannot afford it? Short answer – you live until cardiovascular disease or organ damage does you in – unless COVID19 beats them to it.

    We simply do not have a network of community clinics that treat for free or low cost…. in most of Va.

    We actually do more for folks who are hooked on oxy-contin than those who have diabetes.

    When you compare the US to all other developed countries – all of whom provide universal health care – we are dead last in life expectancy – and untreated comorbidities play a big role.

    Until now we have ignored it. Even now, we try to rationalize it.

    • Larry, you can’t hear what you don’t look for. You like to look things up. Let me suggest how to get the answers and information your post shows you don’t have.

      Start here: https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/content/uploads/sites/25/2017/03/DiabetesStrategicPlan2017WEB.pdf
      Study that. Then go look at https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/diabetes/programs/

      You could also look up Medicaid and see who qualifies and tell us who falls through the cracks and isn’t covered by it.

      After that, look at: https://www.vafreeclinics.org/
      Then tell us where people cannot get treatment.

      • yep. What we know is that diabetes among the poor and uninsured has different outcomes than those who are higher income and have insurance.

        So we have the “theory” of the “free clinics” – we have some in Fredericcksburg but then we have the reality that apparently they cannot get nor afford insulin.

        And it’s all well and good to talk about catching diabetes in the pre-diabetic stage – but if we do have all these “free” services why is there such a difference in outcomes in the demographics?

        Can it be that all those folks in the lower income demographics actually have good access to medical care and insulin but they choose not to avail themselves of it?

        And our answer to them is that they should not have gotten overweight and get diabetes… in the first place – but for wealthier folks, it’s not the same adivice because they actually do have access to medical care and insulin?

        I’m just asking questions here – and I DO appreciate you going to the trouble to post the links – but we still have the realities of the comorbidities in the poor – and I’m sorry, I’m just not buying the premise that they have equivalent access to good medical care and insulin.

  14. Then read the resources and identify the problems. Uninformed opinions don’t advance a discussion, no matter how long they are. Identify where the system isn’t working and let us know.

    • well yes.. but we also have the problem right now where we seem to be interpreting data in different ways also… and that’s not good either.

      So here’s another question. Are other countries experiencing the same comorbidity issues with COVID19 as we are?

      would that be something for us to know when trying to interpret our own data?

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