One City, Two Realities: RNC Praises Trump’s COVID Response While Charlotte’s Latinos Cry For Help

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AP Photo/Carlos Giusti

By Araceli Cruz

August 26, 2020

In Mecklenburg County, 48% of COVID-19 cases are among the Latino community.

As the Republican National Convention (RNC) is underway in Charlotte, North Carolina, speakers continuously say that President Donald Trump’s handling of COVID-19 was a success. However, in Charlotte, where the Latino population continues to grow to an estimated 148,300 in Mecklenburg County alone, COVID-19 isn’t a past tense matter, but a very present one. 

Mecklenburg County Public Health (MCPH) reports that as of this week, they saw more than 24,000 cases of the novel coronavirus, with 289 deaths due to COVID-19 reported among Mecklenburg County residents. That is no declining trend. MCPH also reports that 48% of cases are among the Latino community

About 3 in 4 reported cases were adults ages 20 to 59 years old, and about 3 in 10 reported cases are Latino—most of them younger adults. The MCPH notes that some factors influencing this trend include: targeted testing occurring in neighborhoods with lower access to care, some of which have larger Latino populations; higher proportions of Latinos working in essential jobs that make social distancing difficult; significant household spread among large families; and pre-existing disparities in other social and economic determinants of health, like poverty. 

So how is the Trump administration or the RNC addressing the 14% of Latinos that live in Charlotte? It’s not. One RNC promotional video about Trump’s handling of COVID-19 inaccurately stated, “From the very beginning, Democrats, the media, and the World Health Organization got coronavirus wrong.” Then it adds, “one leader took decisive action to save lives: President Donald Trump.”

The figures tell a very different story. More than 5,763,000 people in the United States have been infected with the coronavirus, including 380,000 children, and at least 177,500 have died, many of them Latino

People Looking for Food Donations

Jenny Gomez joined the Latin American Coalition in Charlotte to help with COVID-19 outreach, primarily with the Spanish-speaking community. From the beginning of the outbreak, she said one of the factors behind the vast spread of the virus among this community in Charlotte, as the MCPH noted, was that they couldn’t quarantine like everyone else. With essential jobs in construction, hospitality, and restaurants, they couldn’t work from home or just quit because they needed their jobs. 

“They couldn’t end their job because that’s how they make a living, but that also made them be exposed to the virus,” Gomez said to The Americano. “And at that point, their employer didn’t have enough information about to contain the spread or about prevention.” 

Gomez said Latin American Coalition gets roughly 150 calls each week from Latinos in Charlotte who inquire about getting food donations, where to get tested, how to find work, and assistance with paying their bills. 

Since she’s been on board, Gomez said not much has changed. People are still asking about food donations, and the Latin American Coalition has helped with finding new employment for them and assisting them with preventing evictions. 

The Heroes Act

The Republican-led Senate has yet to pass the Heroes Act, which was approved by the House and would be extremely beneficial to Latinos. Among other things, the bill would expand paid sick days, family and medical leave, unemployment compensation, food assistance programs, housing assistance, and payments to farmers. It would also establish a fund to award grants for employers to provide pandemic premium pay for essential workers, and require employers to develop and implement control plans for infectious diseases. 

Furthermore, a recent poll conducted by UnidosUS, a national Latino advocacy group, and SOMOS Community Care, revealed that Latinos are primarily concerned with two things right now: the upcoming election and COVID-19. The poll also showed that 70% of Latinos disapprove of how Trump has handled the coronavirus pandemic. 

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