Coronavirus Chronicles — How Have Latinos Been Doing?

NBC News recently interviewed the first Hispanic Surgeon General of the United States (second Bush administration), Dr. Antonia Novello, who…

[…] drew a comparison with Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, where teachers must be vaccinated and schools have to comply with regulations, like ventilating classrooms, and masking is enforced.

Dr. Novello also believes in masks, hand hygiene, and social distancing, and she helps out at vaccination clinics.

Speaking of government, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), race and ethnicity information is only available for about 60% of the U.S. population. Consequently, it is not easy to keep track of who is in the most trouble, who is the most underserved by the health care system, and so forth.

Some racial and ethnic groups are disproportionally impacted by obesity. The disparities are described as notable. The figures on which these percentages are based were collected from 2017 to 2019. There is always a time lag in putting these numerical pictures together, but it is unlikely that matters have improved in the meantime:

Non-Hispanic Black adults had the highest prevalence of self-reported obesity (39.8%), followed by Hispanic adults (33.8%), and non-Hispanic White adults (29.9%).

15 states had an obesity prevalence of 35 percent or higher among Hispanic adults.

When obesity, poverty, and minority join forces, as they so often do, the result is likely to be a life with severely impaired health. Add a virus and its freaky spinoffs to the recipe, and large populations are in for a wild ride.

Is it all just “resistance”?

In June of 2020, when the pandemic was in its relative infancy, Shelby Lin Erdman wrote about San Francisco’s Hispanic population, already known to be disproportionately affected, and about why some people were just not sheltering in place like they were supposed to. She wrote,

Many of those infected could not work from home and could not miss work.

They were delivery drivers, supermarket shelf stockers, hospital cleaning staff, short-order cooks, health aides, and other low-income, high-risk service workers. Historically, ethnic and socioeconomic inequities in a community are known to have health effects, and this is one of them. In the densely populated and very Hispanic Mission District, several authorities got together to offer free testing for the virus. In a three-day period in April, they got to about 4,000 area residents. Erdman wrote,

The study found that 2% of those given a PCR test — the most accurate type of diagnostic test — were infected with Covid-19 at the time of the test. Among those who tested positive, infection rates were almost 20 times higher for Hispanic residents than non-Hispanics… Antibody tests indicated 6% of residents had contracted the virus at some point since the beginning of the pandemic…

The survey also found more than half of those testing positive, or 52%, reported no symptoms of COVID-19. Dr. Gabriel Chamie explained why this is so dangerous:

Symptom-based testing would have failed to detect over 40% of active infections, and only one person who tested positive required hospitalization, suggesting the vast majority — many of whom had high levels of virus — would not have been diagnosed without community-based testing.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “First Hispanic surgeon general on Covid: Use ‘common sense,’ save your family,”, 08/23/21
Source: “Obesity, Race/Ethnicity, and COVID-19,”, undated
Source: “Coronavirus continued to spread among San Francisco’s low-income Hispanic population despite lockdown, study finds,”, 06/18/20
Image by City of Detroit/Public Domain

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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