CAMBRIDGE, MASS. (WHDH) - Since the start of the pandemic, data has shown that COVID-19 disproportionately affects the Black and Latino population.

In a newly published study comparing all 351 Massachusetts communities, Harvard researchers have tried to identify more of the reasons why.

“If you look at Chelsea, where their overall rates have been five to six times higher than the rest of the state, that is a community that is two-thirds Latino,” said Dr. Benjamin Sommers of the Harvard School of Public Health.

Sommers is one of the authors of the study and said factors for COVID-19 in the Latino community include: more multigenerational households, more essential workers who take public transportation, and a higher number of immigrants who are afraid to get tested for COVID.

“They’re worried about that it’s going to interfere with their ability to get a green card, might lead to deportation and so if you have people who are scared to be getting the kind of care they need, they’re less likely to know they have COVID,” he said.

In regards to the Black community, Sommers said the reason for more COVID cases is due to structural racism.

“Disproportionate rates of incarceration and other aspects of societal, kind of inequity. Jails are really a prime location for spreading COVID. That could be playing a role,” he said.

According to Sommers, the study proves that changes in public health policy could slow the spread of the disease.

“We talk a lot about, kind of, front end of the restaurants. How far away are the tables and what’s the ventilation? Are we sitting inside or outside,” he said. “There are people preparing that food though and they don’t have the luxury of preparing it outside.”

Sommers said that while further study is needed to learn more about what is driving the COVID disparities, he said he hopes to get the results of this study in front of public health decision-makers who can take action in Massachusetts.


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