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In San Francisco, Latinos account for 25% of coronavirus cases

Pedestrians walk by graffiti encouraging the wearing of masks on April 20, 2020 in San Francisco.
(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Latinos in San Francisco account for 25% of positive coronavirus cases but make up only 15% of the San Francisco population, Mayor London Breed said Monday.

At Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, more than 80% of the hospitalized coronavirus patients are Latino. Latinos usually make up only about 30% of the hospital’s patient population.

City officials who accompanied Breed to a news conference said the heavily Latino Mission District may have been hit hard because many of its residents live in multi-family or multi-generational housing. They also have jobs, such as home care aides, that require them to go to work, and they may shop frequently because of limited income.

The city of 800,000 has just over 1,200 positive cases, but city officials said the numbers will rise as more tests are done and the virus spreads.

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“Health emergencies exploit the inequalities in society,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, the city’s health director. “People with fewer resources, chronic illnesses, underlying health conditions and who have experienced institutionalized stigma and discrimination are going to be more at risk for getting sick.”

Colfax said that some Latinos are declining to participate in contact-tracing. The program aims to trace all of an infected person’s recent contacts to try to stem the spread of the pestilence.

He suggested fear of immigration authorities may be to blame.

As a result, the city held a webinar for Spanish media on the tracing program and has been passing out fliers and posters in Spanish to explain that no information would be shared with immigration agents.

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Statewide numbers issued earlier this month also showed disparities by race. African Americans represented 12% of the state’s coronavirus-related deaths, even though blacks make up only 6% of the California population, the numbers showed.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed has been criticized for some of her decisions. But her early action on the coronavirus pandemic is also earning her praise.

Partial data from that time showed that Latinos accounted for 30% of the state’s COVID-19 deaths but represent 39% of the state’s population. Analysts pointed out that the state’s Latino population was generally young and therefore might be more likely to survive the disease.

Experts have said that some minorities may be more vulnerable in the epidemic because they lack access to good healthcare and may have underlying health problems.

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San Francisco is now aggregating coronavirus cases by ZIP Code.

The latest maps and charts on the spread of COVID-19 in California.

In addition to the heavily Latino Mission District, a neighborhood with the city’s largest homeless shelter also had relatively high numbers of infections. Nearly 100 residents of that shelter have tested positive and moved into hotel rooms leased by the city.

“What this map reveals is information that helps us to understand where the cases are,” Breed said, “but in no way indicates that some parts of our city are safer than others.”

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On an unrelated matter, San Francisco officials said that people who normally go to Golden Gate Park to attend 4/20 marijuana celebrations stayed home Monday. City officials have been urging marijuana enthusiasts to stay away this year.

“We want to celebrate so many things right now,” Breed said, “but unfortunately it is a matter of life or death.”


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