A Look At Why Hispanic, Latinx Population Makes Up Nearly Half Of Utah's COVID-19 Cases

Jun 9, 2020

The Utah Department of Health shows more than 40% of the state’s coronavirus cases identify as Hispanic or Latinx — despite only making up 14% of the population in Utah. 

“The main issue with Latinos is that we have a higher proportion of people with chronic illnesses, so things like diabetes and hypertension, and in the long run, functional limitation because of chronic illness, are very prominent in Latinx health,” said Dr. Guadalupe Marquez-Velarde.

Marquez-Velarde, an assistant professor at Utah State University, studies population health and disparities in health between minorities and white populations.

“In these communities, Latinx communities and Black communities, that are more exposed to COVID-19 because they are more likely to be working or overrepresented in essential businesses, such as grocery stores, or transportation, or other sort of occupations that have not stopped working," she said. "And that's the case that we're seeing right now in Cache Valley with workers at these different food processing plants, of the virus spreading pretty rapidly among these individuals, they have not stopped working, they have not had the resources to get tested. And you know, they also cannot afford to stop working.”

The meat processing plant JBS in southern Cache County tested every one of its 1,024 employees between May 30 and June 2, and 287 of those came back positive. Since these tests were processed, the number of Hispanic or Latinx cases in the state nearly doubled. And Crescencio López-Gónzalez, an assistant professor of Latinx Studies at USU and advocate in the area, says based on the latest CDC transmission models for the virus, he expects that number to triple as family members of the confirmed cases get tested

“Everybody is focusing on JBS but we have to remember, JBS tested all of their employees," said Lizette Villegas, with The Family Place. "So they're the ones that are in the eye right now because they jumped to do that. Other companies — that we won't name — (it) doesn't mean they're not affected, either.”

There have been rumors of similar outbreaks at several other companies in town, many of which are in the food packaging industry, though no other companies have conducted mass-testing of employees at this time.

The full list of donation drop-off sites organized by López-Gónzalez is as follows: 

Iglesia Católica de Santo Thomas de Aquino

Phone: 435-752-1478

573 E. 2050 North

Logan, UT 84341

Iglesia de Dios Peniel- Un Nuevo Comienzo

Marisol Montufar y Francisco Montufar

Phone: 435-760-6031

340 N. 800 East

Hyrum, UT 84319

Danny Beus

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Phone: 435-232-3923

386 Sheridan Ridge Lane

Nibley, UT 84321

Elizabeth Springborn

Phone: 435-374-8952

336 E. 700 South

Logan, UT 84321

Emmanuel Baptist Church

Phone: 435-245-5898

310 N. 800 East

Hyrum, UT 84319

Cache Refugee and Immigrant Connection

Jess Lucero

Phone: 307-221-3515

93 S. 1250 East

Logan, UT 84321

Stef Burns

stef.burns@gmail.com

(Relief Society-Hygiene Kits)