North Carolina COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations keep rising, but NC is still in better shape than many Southern states. However, the disproportionate number of cases among Latinx/Hispanic communities continues to concern health officials and was the focus of Thursday’s coronavirus briefing that included high-ranking leaders from the Mexican and Guatemalan Consulate. BPR’s Helen Chickering asked NC Health News founding editor Rose Hoban about numbers, the push in prevention efforts in Latino communities and more during their Friday check-in.
HC: The numbers keep creeping up both new cases and hospitalizations. And during one of the media briefings this week, Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen described North Carolina as simmering and needs to work harder to keep the COVID-19 situation from boiling over.
RH: Simmering is a great analogy because it means that we're still cooking, but we are not boiling over like places like Arizona, Texas, Florida, Alabama, Georgia. So, you know, our hospitalizations, for example, have been holding steady anywhere between 11 and 1200, you know, they come up to 1186. They're doing a lot of testing now. We're getting a lot of positive results. But the good news is that our level of positivity, in other words, the number of positives that we're getting in all those tests is starting to just creep down the slightest bit.
HC: We also heard more concern from health officials over the rising number of cases among Latino communities. The Mexican and Guatemalan consulates made an appearance at Thursday's briefing and the joined the governor in sending an urgent message to Hispanic and Latinx residents.
RH: Latinos make up about 40% of the cases. Now, their number of deaths is about proportionate to their number in the population, but the number of cases is much higher. So, I think that they're really trying to get out the Spanish language messaging. So, this is really an issue for them - to try and get COVID-19 under control in the Latino community.
HC: And that includes people who are undocumented, who may be fearful about getting tested or going to the doctor's office, even a community clinic because of their status.
RH: NCHN reporter Hannah Critchfield wrote a story about the Warrant Service Officer (WSO) program that has people very much worried that ICE is active in communities and is coming and grabbing people. And so, they're afraid to do things like get tested, even though the testing is free. We wrote a story about free testing last week and we actually heard from a federal official at the Health Resources and Services Administration who said even though the computer registration form for testing asks for either a driver's license number or a social security number, that information is not required.
Rose Hoban is the founder and editor of NC Health News, as well as being the state government reporter. Hoban has been a registered nurse since 1992 but transitioned to journalism after earning degrees in public health policy and journalism. She's reported on science, health, policy, and research in NC since 2005. Contact: editor at northcarolinahealthnews.org