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Latinos On Front Lines Face Dilemma: Test For COVID-19 Or Lose Income While Quarantined

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- While most of California sheltered in place, Latinos continued doing a lot of the hands-on work and are now being hit hard by the coronavirus because of it. A study showed that 80 percent of the people in Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital with COVID-19 were Latino. But despite that, many are now facing an impossible dilemma when it comes to testing.

A Los Angeles Times analysis shows Latinos in San Francisco's Mission District and throughout the city are three times more likely to test positive than white residents.

"We're 15 percent of the population but make up 50 percent of the cases that have been confirmed for COVID-19 in San Francisco," said John Jacobo. He is a member of a community support group called the Latino Task Force, formed after the stay-at-home order was issued.  They understand the population in the Mission and realized that staying home from work was not going to be an option for most of its residents.

"When bills are due, bills are due because at the end of the day, if people don't work the lights get cut out and there's no food to provide in the fridge," said lifelong Mission District resident David Contreras.

People who work for minimum wage in an expensive city like San Francisco cannot afford to take two weeks off to quarantine. So, many of them were telling the task force they were as afraid of the test as they were of the virus.

"What they were telling us was, even if I wanted to go get tested I'm concerned if I am asymptomatic they're going to tell me I have COVID and I have to stay home," said Jacobo. "And if I stay home, that's the ballgame. How do I pay for rent? How do I buy food? How do I do anything? I cannot afford to be able to test."

Jacobo says the only way to solve the dilemma is to pay low-income people who test positive a minimum wage salary while they are in quarantine.  A $2 million pilot fund, raised by private donations, is trying that now in San Francisco. Jacobo says it is what governments across America must do if they want infected people to stay home and stop the spread of the virus.

"Our elected leaders have to step up to do what's right for the people that are most impacted and also to help protect themselves," he said.  "We just have to do it. We have to figure it out."


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