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Young Latinos Disproportionately Contracting, Dying Of COVID-19 In California

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- The new numbers are alarming. Young Latinos in California are contracting and dying of COVID-19 disproportionately compared to other ethnicities.

Workers like Taaple Santos are feeling the intense, growing and piercing pressure to put food on the table.

"My family not working now. It only me now," said Santos, a delivery worker.

Jho Smar believes many in the Latino community simply don't have jobs that allow them to work remotely.

"I feel like most of the Latino community doesn't have the ability to work from home," he told KPIX 5.

Smar is about to turn 18 years old and is helping his mom, who opened Covina Maya Restaurant in San Francisco's Mission District in February.

New data from the California Department of Public Health shows Latinos account for more than 63% of COVID-19 cases in the 18-34 age group, while only representing 45% of the population.

"That population usually doesn't qualify for health care," said Dr. Jaime Ruiz, Chief Medical Officer at the Mission Neighborhood Health Center, which offers free Coronavirus testing. "The other risk factor is that they are essential workers."

Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, UCSF professor of medicine and infectious disease specialist, agrees.

"They can't stay at home and often don't want to go to the hospital unless they have to because every day they are not working they're not bringing in income," said Chin-Hong.

A screening project called Unidos En Salud, done in coordination with UCSF, tested more than 3,000 residents in the Mission last month and found that 90 percent of those who tested positive reported being unable to work from home.

"During this whole time while you had a lot of people and workers who could stay at home, they had positions in essential services where they had to go to work," said Ruiz.

In the 35-49 age group, Latinos represent more than 74% of deaths while only accounting for 41.5 percent of the population. In the 50-64 age group, it's 54, and 32% respectively.

"Low wage earners often don't have access to healthcare and the full benefit positions or for undocumented reasons, they are not able to access healthcare or they never had primary care before," said Ruiz.

The numbers aren't as disproportionate in the older age group, but in the 0-17 age demographic, more than 77 percent are Latino, while they represent 48 percent of the state population in that demographic.

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