SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Coronavirus cases in California are hitting the Latino community especially hard. In some counties, they have doubled the mortality rate compared to white people.
Trinidad Alcalá’s life has changed in just two weeks after her father started showing symptoms of COVID-19. Isauro Alcalá was 74-years-old with no preexisting conditions when he first developed a minor cough on June 14.
“They told us he was only going to be there for a few days, he was otherwise fine. We just needed to stabilize his oxygen levels and that he would be able to go home, and a couple days later that just wasn’t true,” Trinidad said.
She took her dad to the hospital last week suspecting he had coronavirus after he went back to work playing in a band with his wife. Alcalá said the band was their main source of income.
She had to leave the hospital the day she checked her dad in, after showing symptoms of the virus herself. Alcalá recalled the last conversation she had with her dad.
“My dad was my best friend,” she said. “I looked at him and he said ‘You’re leaving me already?’ And I said, ‘Well, don’t you dare leave me. You better stay strong and I better see you in a couple of days.’ And he said ‘Don’t worry you know who you are talking to.'”
Alcalá and her mom tested positive for the virus, so they were not allowed to be with Isauro in the hospital. On Monday, she received a call that he was being transferred to ICU, and a few hours later he was gone. Her family did not get the chance to say goodbye.
“That’s the hardest part because in Latino culture you always say hello and goodbye, but because of the virus and my mom’s immune system was already weakened and so was mine, we couldn’t see him,” she said.
Alcalá moved from Mexico with her family when she was a kid. She said the communication process was difficult for her family, as she worked to translate information from the doctors.
“It was terrible for my mother to not even understand what happened to her husband directly. I think that is hardest for her because she doesn’t really understand why,” she said.
Coronavirus cases are impacting the Latino community at a disproportionate rate. Solano County was recently put on Governor Newsom’s watch list after outbreaks among farm workers, according to the California Department of Public Health. Latinos make up 37% of the counties 1,288 cases. The county is working with neighboring counties and with vineyard management companies to implement social distancing measures and using translators to educate workers.
San Joaquin County is seeing a similar trend. Out of their 3,856 cases, Latinos make up for 39% of their cases.
“The last two or three weeks we have seen an enormous jump in the Latino community,” explained Dr.Maggie Park, San Joaquin Public Health Director. “We have found that some people, for example, in the migrant farm community, it puts them at risk to get tested. They have this misconception that if they are positive, they will lose their job. So, we are trying to really work with messaging around that,” she said.
Rachel Rios, executive director of La Familia Counseling Center in Sacramento, started offering COVID-19 testing May 15th. Since then, around 400 people have been tested. Rios explained there are many reasons for the increase in cases.
“Latinos are essential workers who are still working and have been working the whole time. They are in jobs that maybe don’t allow them to telecommute, so they have to be out in the public. There’s lack of access to health care. Many folks may not be insured,” she explained.
Rios receives calls daily for help related to coronavirus.
“We need to have different approaches. We can’t have a one size fits all messaging. We really need to get community health workers that are from those communities to be out talking to people,” she said.
She said many Latinos are being forced to work even with symptoms and believes the community needs more resources and education.
“Working with our county, community, and city to really put a spotlight on the fact that this community needs resources. That we really need to do something to address this,” Rios said.
As Alcalá and her mother recover from coronavirus and plan funeral arrangements to honor her father, she hopes people will listen to health officials warnings.
“I think just stepping out and letting go of your ego to realize that this is something bigger than just yourself,” she said.