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Latino community hardest hit by coronavirus in Clark County

Updated May 13, 2020 - 7:20 pm

Of the 5,000-plus confirmed coronavirus cases thus far in Clark County, about 27 percent have been identified as Hispanics, the ethnic group hardest struck by the disease, local officials said Wednesday.

Dr. Fermin Leguen, the acting chief health officer of the Southern Nevada Health District, said Hispanics accounted for 1,374 cases, the most of any ethnicity in the county. And 343 Hispanics have been admitted to the hospital, while 44 have died.

“That’s something that makes me nervous,” Las Vegas Councilwoman Olivia Diaz said during a news conference about the high numbers of Hispanics identified as carriers of the virus.

Health and elected officials sought to convey the socioeconomic and cultural factors that have made Hispanics particularly susceptible to COVID-19: lack of access to health care, jobs that often put individuals in contact with the public, a tight-knit community and the tendency for households to be multigenerational.

“This complicates the transmission of the virus and spreads the disease because of the closeness,” said Dr. Luis Medina-Garcia, an infectious disease specialist.

But Leguen was also clear: Hispanics were not solely affected.

“I don’t want to ignore the issue that, it’s not just the Hispanic community but also all the minorities have been adversely affected by this disease,” he said.

Hispanics comprise 31 percent of the county population. Nearly a quarter of total confirmed cases in the county did not have race or ethnicity identified, according to a Las Vegas Review-Journal analysis, meaning it is unclear how the virus has completely affected demographics.

Latino community hardest hit by coronavirus in Clark County

But the Review-Journal analysis also found that cases in Latinos were growing at a faster rate than other racial and ethnic groups in recent weeks. Latinos represent more than one-third of all cases with race or ethnicity identified. At the beginning of April, they accounted for less than a quarter.

One demographic that continues to be hit hard regardless of ethnicity: seniors. Nearly eight out of 10 people who have died from the virus were 65 years or older, according to Leguen.

Plea for testing, continued caution

As the state enters the first phase of Gov. Steve Sisolak’s reopening plan, officials urged the public to get tested even if they do not show symptoms and only suspect they may have come into contact with the disease, and to not stray from basic health safety measures.

“Nevada has worked diligently to flatten the curve,” said Assemblywoman Selena Torres, D-Las Vegas. “We don’t want to lose all the great progress that we have made over the last few weeks.”

Once restricted to doctors’ orders and signs of symptoms, testing has grown significantly throughout the state in recent weeks. Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom said he expected a handful of additional sites to be announced next week after free testing at The Orleans recently expanded.

But for Diaz, it is important to ensure testing is accessible. Mexican and El Salvadoran consulates and Centro Cristiano El Shaddai church will have sites this month by appointment only, which Diaz said could be made by texting 702-751-1694.

“There are some efforts to bring it closer to the Latino community,” she said.

Otherwise individuals interested in setting appointments for testing should visit UMCSN.com.

As more testing occurs, Leguen said the number of cases is expected to rise: “The more we look for the virus, the more we are going to find that.”

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Michael Scott Davidson contributed to this report.

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