The essential Latino worker bears the greatest burden of coronavirus | Instant News

For Lupe Martinez, who washes clothes in Riverside nursing homes, presents a frightening choice every day: going to work and risking getting a new corona virus or losing $ 13.58 per hour check the salary that her family counts.

Martinez starts working.

Even after the mask starts to run out. In fact, he said, after a patient entered without protective equipment he fell ill and was put in solitary confinement.

Martinez, 62, tested positive for COVID-19 last month, followed by her 60-year-old husband, who had to stop working after a heart attack last year. His adult sons and daughters, who lived with them, were also stated positive.

“There are many times when I don’t want to go to work,” Martinez said, coughing heavily while talking. “I don’t want to be sick. My husband said, “No.” I said we can’t live. We have this bill. … I have to push myself to leave. I have a commitment to my family. ”

For low-paid workers whose jobs are rarely, if ever, glorified – people who clean floors, wash clothes, serve fast food, harvest crops, work in meat factories – have jobs that make them work, Americans come at a high price. According to strange calculations caused by a virus epidemic, they are considered “essential”. And that means being a target.

Rafael Saavedra at his home in the Alhambra. The truck driver, whose salary was cut in half, was afraid to infect his daughters at home.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

With black people, latino suffering from the full force of the COVID-19 pandemic in California and other parts of the United States, becoming infected and dying at a proportionately high rate compared to their share in the population. Health experts say that one of the main reasons why Latinos are so vulnerable to COVID-19 is because many jobs in low-paying jobs force them to leave home and interact with the community.

Latinos represent about 40% of California’s population but 53% of positive cases, according to country data. In San Francisco, Latinos constitute 15% of the population but represent 25% of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

UC San Francisco researchers test thousands of people in the city’s Mission district for COVID-19. While Latinos constitute 44% of those tested, they make up more than 95% of positive cases. About 90% of those who test positive say they cannot work from home.

Analysis of data from the Los Angeles Times last month also found that young Latinos and blacks are dying at a disproportionate rate, believing in conventional wisdom that old age is a major risk factor for death.

California California is far less likely than white, Asian and black people to work from home during a pandemic, according to a new poll California Voters from UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies.

About 42% of Latinos surveyed said they could work from home, compared to 53% of blacks, 59% of Asians and 61% of whites. The survey also found that Latinos were almost three times more likely than white people to care about their work, placing them close to others. This was a particular problem during the first weeks of the pandemic, when masks and other protective equipment were scarce and many companies were still trying to implement a social distance policy.

“They feel important; they are trying to do their part to get us out of this crisis, “said Jose Lopez, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Food Chain Workers Alliance. “However, we cannot provide face masks. We can’t give them space to give them six feet from their peers. ”

An analysis of the Times from US Census Bureau data shows that Latinos make up less than 40% of the workforce in all industrial sectors that are considered critical by the California state government, according to their share of the state population. But in some sectors, they are largely over-represented.

In essential agricultural work, the workforce is more than 80% of Latin Americans. They also have more than half of the important food work and nearly 60% of construction work is considered important. At the same time, Latinos in the United States are more likely than the general population to say that they or their household members experienced a decline in wages or lost their jobs during a pandemic, according to the Pew Research Center survey in April.

For weeks, Dr. Marlene Martin, assistant clinical professor at UC San Francisco and physician at the Zuckerberg General Hospital in San Francisco, watched Latin American patients with COVID-19 flock to the emergency room. Last month, more than 80% of patients hospitalized for corona virus in hospitals were Latin Americans.

They are roofers, cooks, janitors, dishwashers, and delivery drivers. Many of them are under 50 years old. They live in households where social distance is difficult, sometimes with two or three other families. For Martín, a 36-year-old Latina, entering the intensive care unit sometimes gives the impression of being stopped by a disturbing mirror.

“It’s full of people who look like me,” he said, “who have the same language and cultural background.”

“You see the extreme of what happens when someone can take shelter there or someone can’t. It’s not that people don’t want to stay at home. It’s not that they don’t listen. It’s not that they aren’t educated. It’s because they don’t have options.”

The sheer number of victims of the corona virus in Latin raises the question of whether employers in the United States and the government have done enough to protect these workers.

In Iowa, Latin constitutes about 6% of the population but accounts for a quarter of all positive cases, according to country count. In the State of Washington, Latin represented 35% of all cases are positive, even though it only represents 13% of the population.

The balance between the safety of important Latin American workers and dependence on their work is being tested in the city of Hanford, where the epidemic of the corona virus in the meat packaging plant now accounts for half of confirmed cases in Kings County.

Regional overseer, Doug Verboon said about 180 employees at Central Valley Meat Co. it’s been positive since Tuesday. Most of the facility’s employees – who work around him in “wet and humid working conditions” – are Latinos, he said. Central Valley Meat does not respond to Times calls or emails.

Karla Barrera is the deli manager at the Sun Valley grocery store and mother of two children. “I’m very afraid of my baby. I pray not to have it,” Barrera said.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Verboon said the county relied on more Latin workers during the cherry picking season, which lasts until mid-June. He said that a Hanford fruit packing company that employs 800 workers to pick cherries told him that an epidemic similar to Central Valley Meat Co. will be a “big disaster.”

“We cannot take these people down because we have a short working window,” Verboon said.

Lupe Martinez started at the Alta Vista health and fitness center in Riverside last July after her husband, a sheet metal worker and breadwinner, suffered a heart attack and had to stop working.

In the laundry room, Martinez – a 2015 Local member of the International Union of Employee Services, representing about 400,000 nursing home workers and nursing homes in California – is surrounded mainly by Latinos and Filipinos. Many of his colleagues do two jobs or shift work, washing thick blankets and blankets, clean shower curtains, handling patient’s laundry.

Martinez’s family asked him not to leave because the virus began to spread in California.

“I say to them,” I will believe in God. I will not get it, “he said.” I will go to work. I am worried. “

A few weeks ago, Martinez said, he entered an old woman’s room to bring her clean clothes. There is usually a notification on the door if a patient has an illness that requires staff to wear gloves, masks or other equipment, he said. Nothing was posted, Martinez said, so he entered without a mask.

Martinez said the woman told him she felt sick. A few days later, a sign on the door showed that the door was insulated.

The Alta Vista Health and Fitness Center does not return calls or emails to comment.

On April 13, Martinez returned home with a sore throat, dry cough, and aching body. He could not taste the tea his son had brought. He has difficulty breathing. He went to the hospital before and after the positive and discharged COVID-19 test, he was told to try to isolate himself.

When her husband, son and daughter who lived in the house tested positive, she lay in bed, crying to God.

Another son and his wife live in the backyard of the property. She’s a barber. He is a dental health expert. They are currently not leaving their homes to work. They did not get COVID-19.

Because he hasn’t worked in a retirement home for a year, Martinez said, he is not entitled to sick benefits. He requested state disability but has not yet received a response. Martinez said he felt he had to go back to work.

“My children don’t want me to come back,” Martinez said. “But I have an invoice. I know this is my life, but – I don’t know.”

Rosa Arenas, another union member and certified nursing assistant at the Orange Nursing Home, said she had been tested after learning that a patient tested positive for COVID-19 last month. On May 2, Arena was stated positive.

Now she is isolated in the bedroom in her family’s apartment, away from her husband and two children, ages 12 and 6, whose test results are negative. She spent Mother’s Day reading the Bible alone and chatting on video with her children and husband across the door.

“My children say they are sad not to hug me on Mother’s Day,” said Arenas, 32. “It breaks my heart.”

He said that there were not enough personal protective equipment at work and that coworkers had been infected. Her landscaper husband was recently returned home by her employer to be quarantined and tested, and she burned all of her vacations and sick leave while being quarantined at home. And he failed to work.


Rafael Saavedra, 40, outside his home last week in the Alhambra.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

When Rafael Saavedra, a 40-year-old truck driver from the Alhambra, came home from work, he undressed in his garage, threw his clothes in the washing machine and rushed to the bathroom, careful not to touch anything. the interior. His greatest fear is infecting his daughters, aged 16 and 6 years.

At the shipping center in San Pedro, where he and hundreds of other drivers deliver newspapers and rest, he hardly ever finds soap or hand sanitizer.

Employees who normally work at the center now work remotely and there is little communication with the driver about how to stay safe, Saavedra said. Drivers received a single thin mask about a month ago and nothing else, he said.

Saavedra said that most of the drivers working with him were Latin American immigrants who struggled to overcome the pandemic due to language barriers and lack of resources.

“They don’t know their rights. They are afraid to talk. They live in their cocoons,” he said.

Saavedra has carved out a comfortable life for his family. He often travels with his wife and daughter, who attend a private Christian school. However, his salary was cut in half because of the reduction in hours. He was afraid of losing his house.

His wife, a nurse at a homeless shelter in Pasadena, reduced his own time for fear of contracting the virus and infecting their daughters.

Sonia Hernandez, who is raising four children as a single mother, has worked as a cook at McDonald’s in Monterey Park for 18 years and earns more than $ 14 per hour, said her daughter, Jenniffer Barrera Hernandez.

In early April, Hernandez was hospitalized with COVID-19 and was in a coma for weeks.

“They told us that he would not spend the day and we had to decide whether he wanted to go quietly or do chest compressions to try to get a pulse,” Barrera Hernandez said. “It’s very difficult to make this decision.”

Miraculously, said Barrera Hernandez, her mother woke up.

After his diagnosis, Hernandez’s coworkers left work asking for safety supplies, including masks, gloves, soap and hand sanitizers. Barrera Hernandez said that after calling McDonald to inform the company that his mother had tested positive, he was not called back.

“This is very sad, because my mother really likes this job. You have been in business for so long, and in the end you are just a number. “

Hernandez recovered at his home in South L. He was very tired and could not walk or even hold the phone for too long, his daughter said. He felt guilty, he could not go back to work.

David Tovar, vice president of communications for McDonald’s in the United States, said that many statements made by Barrera Hernandez and certain employees were wrong.

He said McDonald’s restaurants, including the restaurant where Hernandez worked, had a large supply of soap, hand sanitizers and cleaning supplies, and closed one night a week for deep cleaning. Tovar said that the restaurant was open only to take home, with social distance requirements imposed and bathrooms closed.

When McDonald learned of Hernandez’s diagnosis on April 8, the company immediately notified four crew members who had been contacted, he said.

“We respect Ms. Hernandez and all McDonald’s employees very much, but it’s not fair to let them try to tell a story that isn’t true to you,” Tovar said. “We are a large company with diverse employees, especially Latinos. We want everyone who comes to work at McDonald’s to have a good experience. “

When Mariana’s mother received a letter from her employer in March saying she was an important worker, she proudly announced it.

Ms. Lui, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who works in a food production warehouse in San Fernando who prepares food for school, told her daughter that she had never been considered “important” before. Now, he said, people need it.

But his colleagues, including many undocumented Latinos, began to fall ill. They had stopped appearing on the assembly line, where, he said, they were stacking ingredients on the sandwich while standing side by side.

His mother spoke to The Times on condition of anonymity because he was afraid of losing his job. He, who also spoke with The Times, is a 31-year-old legal assistant in Whittier with a surname different from his mother’s.

Her 50-year-old mother said that her colleagues used aspirin and continued to work, despite fever and headaches. Then he began to show symptoms.

“I am tired at work and have a small cough,” he said. “I didn’t think it would be a big problem, so I continued to work for three or four days.”

A few days later, he tested positive for COVID-19.

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