COVID-19 has had devastating impacts on the most vulnerable, highlighting huge inequities for Black, Latino, and Indigenous communities. Since the start of the pandemic in early 2020, Latinos and Latinas faced disproportionately higher rates of infections and deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also shows that the risk of death for Latinos is 1.8 times higher than white people, and the risk of hospitalization is 2.2 times higher, when age is adjusted. As a country, we are still figuring out how to process so much loss.
For Latinos and Latinas, COVID’s impact was felt on many sides. Studies showed that the majority of COVID-19 deaths in 2020 were of frontline workers in labor and service jobs, and it was mostly low-wage and low-income Latino men facing the brunt. These are the individuals who helped keep this country running in the most difficult of times, often without adequate benefits, like paid sick leave or medical insurance.
The death rate was also higher for Latinos and Latinas under the age of 65, a statistic that medical expert Dr. Peter Hotez referred to as the “historic decimation” of Latino communities in September 2020.
The coronavirus pandemic changed everything about the 2020 presidential election–from how campaigns were run, to how voter outreach was conducted, to how people voted. As misinformation and disinformation became a pressing issue in Latino communities, COVID was also a central point of that, leading to the politicization of public health measures like masking and vaccines.
Now in 2022, with the country fully reopened, there are other pressing issues facing us: over a dozen states will pass abortion restrictions following the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Congress passed the first major federal gun safety legislation in nearly three decades amid a rise in mass shootings, and partisan debates around election integrity and schooling have become the focal point of some key primary races. So the question remains, what about COVID?
In this next installment of Latino USA’s 2022 midterms coverage, Maria is joined by her In The Thick co-host Julio Ricardo Varela, co-founder of EquisLabs Carlos Odio, and award-winning journalist Tanzina Vega. They reflect on the last two years of the pandemic and, looking ahead to the midterms, talk about what we can expect from Latino and Latina voters.