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Latinos test positive for coronavirus at overwhelming levels in San Francisco survey

During a four-day period, a team of community workers and volunteers with San Francisco’s Latino Task Force and infectious disease specialists at UC San Francisco tested 4,160 residents and workers for the novel coronavirus in a census tract of the city’s Mission District.

They found that 2.1% of those tested were positive; yet it was the details of the group’s demographics that were more revealing.

While Latinos made up 44% of those tested, they accounted for more than 99% of the positive COVID-19 cases. In addition, 40% of those tested earned less than $50,000 per year. That group accounted for nearly 90% of the positive cases.

More than half of those tested who tested positive — 53% — had no symptoms of the illness.

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The study — conducted between April 25 and 28 — provided information about sheltering in place: For those who must leave their homes to work (roughly 57% of those tested), they accounted for 90% of the positive cases among workers. Staying home, the researchers said, seemed to make a difference.

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.

The study results are already leading to policy changes in the city.

Hillary Ronan, district supervisor for the region, said she was proposing legislation that would address the findings, including providing hotel rooms or safe places for people who test positive, replacing wages for those who may have lost work because of a positive finding — irrespective of immigration status — and food and other essentials for those who cannot leave home to access those items.

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This is an example of an “academic study that led to a close collaboration with a community” to provide testing in substantial numbers, that is leading directly to policy proposals and changes, she said.

There is growing evidence that black and Latino residents are being hardest hit by the coronavirus.

Black and Latino Californians ages 18 to 64 are dying more frequently of COVID-19 than their white and Asian counterparts, relative to their share of the population, a Times analysis of state health department data conducted in late April found.

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Newly released figures on the toll of the coronavirus show profound disparities in people’s odds of survival that fall along racial and ethnic lines. In this case, the data also belie the conventional wisdom that old age is the primary risk factor for death.

When accounting for each group’s percentage of the population, blacks and Latinos under 65 had a higher share of fatalities than even older blacks and Latinos. The trend is particularly noticeable among those age 18 to 49, The Times’ analysis found.

The San Francisco Bay Area has seen consecutive weekly declines in the number of new coronavirus cases. Southern California has seen the pace increase.

Preliminary racial data released by health officials in California and Los Angeles County last month suggested Latinos were not facing any higher rate of infection or death from the virus. But experts warned that those findings were likely skewed by the fact that Latinos — California’s largest ethnic group — are typically younger than other demographics. Experts predicted that higher rates would emerge once more complete data came out.

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The first neighborhood-level glimpse of the COVID-19 death toll in Los Angeles County showed the poorer areas are seeing an outsize number of fatalities.

Some of the highest death rates are in low-income neighborhoods of Central Los Angeles, a Times analysis of county health department data released Tuesday shows.


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