El Paso Battling Mass Wave of Coronavirus Deaths, as US Latino Death Toll Nears 51,000

Nov 19, 2020
10:51 AM

In this Oct. 26,2020, file photo, a medical worker stands at a COVID-19 state drive-thru testing site at UTEP, in El Paso, Texas. The U.S. has recorded about 10.3 million confirmed infections, with new cases soaring to all-time highs of well over 120,000 per day over the past week. (Briana Sanchez/The El Paso Times via AP, File)

As the death toll among Latinos killed by COVID-19 nears 51,000, El Pasoans are battling a growing wave of death and illness from the coronavirus.

On Tuesday, El Paso County, which is more than 80% Latino, “reported 994 new cases of the virus after reporting 1,550 Monday,” according to the Texas Tribune, which cited county statistics showing nearly 800 people have died there.

Bonnie Soria Najera told ABC’s Good Morning America she’s lost six relatives in recent weeks to the coronavirus, including her parents. 

“My mother, my father, my aunt, my cousin, my other aunt, my uncle. They were all being very careful,” said Najera. “It’s just not fair. It’s just not right.”

In related developments:

  • Refrigerated trucks are being used in El Paso as temporary morgues, and jail inmates are volunteering to transport the bodies.
  • Patients without COVID-19 are being transported from El Paso to Austin and other cities to make room for coronavirus patients.
  • El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego ordered a shutdown of nonessential businesses, but his decision was reversed in court after a challenge by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. 
  • The state’s Attorney General Ken Paxton called Samaniego a tyrant ordering the business shutdown.
  • Samaniego has asked that the Texas National Guard be mobilized for “mortuary duty.”

“We’re at a point where we start thinking of rationing health care… ,” Samaniego told the Tribune. “We’re not there yet, but we’re pretty close to it.”

Nationwide, more than 250,000 people have died of COVID-19 over the past eight months, including nearly 51,000 Latinos. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported this week that Latinos account for 20.3 percent of COVID-19 deaths across the country.)

Becerra, Padilla Among Early Favorites for California Senate Spot

With U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris set to become the first woman and first person of color to serve as vice president, California Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to soon announce his pick to replace her.

Among the front-runners for Harris’ seat are California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a former 12-term member of the House, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Congresswoman Barbara Lee of Oakland.

“A recent poll of registered voters from the USC Schwarzenegger Institute that pitted seven possibilities against each other found the most support —11%— for Lee,” according to a report in the San Jose Mercury News

Lee, who is African American, is a past chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Becerra or Padilla, if picked, would be the first Latinos to represent California in the U.S. Senate. Harris, who identifies as Black, is of South Asian and Jamaican heritage. Both of her parents were immigrants.

California is home to more than 15 million Latinos, about 40% of the population, and more than half of the state’s K-12 students are of Hispanic descent.

Others who’ve been rumored as candidates for the impending Senate vacancy include, House members Karen Bass, Katie Porter, Ro Khanna and Adam Schiff; Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis.

NBC Latino reports that “The Latino Victory Fund [and] BOLD PAC, the political arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, have galvanized around California Secretary of State Alex Padilla as their choice, while California groups, including the [state] legislative caucus and the Latino Community Foundation, a philanthropic organization, are generally pushing for a Latino or Latina appointee.”

Under California law, Newsom, a former lieutenant governor and mayor of San Francisco, could also appoint himself, though political observers consider that unlikely.

Latino Candidates Win Key Statewide Posts in November 3 Election

In Arizona, Lea Márquez Peterson and Anna Tovar have become the first Latinas elected to statewide office.

The pair will serve on the Arizona Corporation Commission, which regulates the state’s public utilities and the incorporation of businesses and nonprofits. 

Republican Márquez Peterson is a former president and CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Tovar, a Democrat, serves as mayor of Tolleson, Arizona. She also served in the Arizona Legislature.

The late Gov. Raúl H. Castro is the only other Latino elected statewide in Arizona. He served from 1975 to 1977. Márquez Peterson is the first Latina to serve statewide in Arizona. She was appointed to fill a vacancy on the commission by Gov. Doug Ducey.

Utah’s incumbent Republican Attorney General Sean Reyes defeated his Democratic rival, Greg Skordas, in a landslide victory. 

Reyes, who was endorsed by President Trump, campaigned on his record to “protect Utahns from child sex predators, street drugs, fraud, school violence and suicide, as well as safeguarding individuals’ private information from online hackers and cybercriminals,” according to the Deseret News.

Reyes is of Spanish and Filipino descent. He was the first person of color to be elected statewide in Utah. The far-right publication Newsmax named Reyes one of the nation’s top 50 Latino Republicans in 2016.

In Delaware, Trinidad Navarro was reelected as the state’s Insurance Commissioner. He handily defeated Julia Pillsbury. Navarro was elected to the post in 2016. He is a former New Castle County Sheriff. 

In May, the NAACP demanded Navarro resign after he and a fellow Delaware official were accused of sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation. Navarro has called the allegations “meritless.”

In the State of Washington, incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal defeated Maia Espinoza in the race for the nonpartisan post.

Reykdal is a Democrat and former state lawmaker. Espinoza is Republican who campaigned on her opposition to  mandatory sex education law, Referendum 90, which voters approved on Election Day. Democrats criticized Espinoza for accusing “Reykdal of ‘championing a policy that teaches sexual positions to fourth graders,’” the Seattle Times reported.


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