By Sahar Chmais
The Hispanic population in Texas is getting hit the hardest with COVID-19 deaths and infections for an array of reasons. The Texas Association of Mexican American Chamber of Commerce (TAMACC) felt a sense of urgency to educate minority populations about the coronavirus, so they called on Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House coronavirus advisor, to inform the community on how to handle the issue.
Many of the reasons that COVID-19 has such a strong effect on the Latinx and minority populations can be traced back to a financial root. And although Fauci discussed the “why” in depth, he wanted to strike a balance in the discussion between public health and scientific challenges. These issues include what government actions can be taken to slow the spread, how people can take care of their health, and what Fauci expects to happen with the vaccine.
Properly informing people about the coronavirus deserves an analysis from multiple angles, and during the 30 minutes Fauci had in a Sept. 24 TAMACC webinar, he tried to break it down as best as he could.
One of the biggest reasons the Latinx and Black communities are feeling detrimental effects from COVID-19 is the lack of access to healthcare, explained Fauci.
Preventative care is included under that healthcare access umbrella; for example, a person may have hypertension or diabetes that goes untreated because they do not have access to a physician.
Another example of poor healthcare access is expressed in food deserts. People living in areas with little to no access to healthy foods will not get proper nutrition and the community will suffer from health issues including obesity.
Some of the biggest reasons that cause severe COVID-19 cases, which may lead to death, include: old age, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic kidney disease and lung disease.
“Increased incidents of the comorbidities that are associated with a poor outcome,” Fauci said, “make it much more likely that both African Americans and Latinx are going to wind up having a severe outcome [with COVID-19].”
A person’s financial bracket will not allow them to live as healthy as they possibly can.
The poverty system feeds into itself through a restrictive job market, which in COVID-19 times, has heightened the infection rates. As a demographic group, Fauci said, jobs that the Latinx
population tend to hold puts them outside, in the front line, where they are in constant contact with people, as opposed to being able to work from home and away from a crowd.
Living a healthy lifestyle comes at a great cost, so what happens next, what options do unwealthy people have when it comes to battling COVID-19?
Fauci believes that when it comes to minority demographics, a solution is to have trusted community leaders speak to their population about the importance of social distancing, frequent hand washing and wearing a mask.
Doctors can make individual efforts by participating in free clinics. And as a group, doctors can come down heavily on providing access to healthcare for everyone, forming some type of lobbying group, Fauci added.
While Fauci gave many possible ways to mitigate the virus, he also discussed the long-anticipated solution – the vaccine.
The coronavirus task force has been informed that when the vaccine is available, it will be free, Fauci broke the news. No one, whether they are Latinx, African American, Caucasian, should not get the vaccine because they do not have the necessary funds.
“It should be free, period,” Fauci emphasized the message.
From where the trials stand, Fauci said they will know if the vaccine is effective sometime in November or December and he sits on the side of cautious optimism.
Still, there may be a hurdle with minorities getting the vaccine. Most people participating in the trials have been white. The Latinx population has seen a slight increase in participation, although it can still use more, but the trials are not seeing enough African American participants, Fauci said.
“I recommend very strongly to be part of the vaccine trial,” Fauci advised to minority communities. “When it’s shown to be safe and effective, the worst thing that can happen is that Latinx don’t want to take the vaccine because they say ‘you haven’t proven it’s safe or effective.’ And that would be another example of depriving the Latinx population from something that would be very beneficial to them.”
Getting back to the current state, a vaccine-less one, some audience members were curious what they can do to boost their immunity and protect their body in anticipation of catching the virus.
Fauci said people should not think in terms of boosting their immune system, but instead, they should figure out how they can maintain a normal immunity. If a person has a vitamin D
deficiency, which can make someone more susceptible to infection, then they should restore their vitamin D immunity.
“Bottom line is,” Fauci said, “there aren’t very many things you can take in supplements that can boost your immunity. The best way to maintain the integrity of your immune system, is healthy living. Good diet, exercise, don’t smoke, don’t drink too much, get plenty of rest and try the best way you can to relieve stress.”
The year 2020 has certainly heightened the stress levels for many people, and among all the things that humanity has hurt from this year, there is something we might get rest from; the flu.
Australia and other Southern Hemisphere countries experience the flu season from April through the end of August, but this year, Australia saw the lowest recorded level of flu infections, Fauci said. This is attributed to social distancing, mask wearing, frequent hand washing and less crowding. Fauci strongly suggests that people get their flu vaccine this year, but there is that glimmer of hope and potential look into our future that Australia has provided.
Aside from talking about the health and science behind the coronavirus, Fauci discussed the virus in terms of safe reopening and balancing the economy.
He pointed out that although Texas had an issue with controlling the virus in the beginning, he believes the state is doing much better now. In July and at its peak, Texas was recording nearly 11,000 new cases per day, which has trended down to nearly 4,000 cases per day.
This positive trend does not mean the country is in the clear. The U.S. is the hardest-hit country in the world with nearly 7 million infections and about 200,000 deaths.
The safest way to open up the country, according to Fauci, is to view how the virus count measures as the pathway to reopening.
“When we were doing press conferences with the White House every day,” Fauci recounted, “we came out with the Vice President’s leadership with ways to open up America safely. It started off with a checkpoint, a gateway if you call it; we went on to phase one, then two, then three. If everyone had abided by that and not jumped over, we could have opened the economy without the surges we saw particularly in some of the southern states.”
The issue of reopening has been a divisive one, but Fauci wants the country to know that this is not a matter of public health versus individual freedom; it’s a matter of people against the virus.
“Nobody wants to shut down the country and the economy, I certainly don’t,” Fauci said, “but the way we are going to open it again safely is by being careful and prudent in listening and acting according to guidelines we are talking about.”