Job Losses Higher Among People Of Color During Coronavirus Pandemic as are Nursing Home Deaths

Two related articles on racial disparities regarding COVID-19, starting with job losses:

Until a few weeks ago, Melissa St. Hilaire worked the night shift taking care of a 95-year-old woman for a family in Miami.

“I help her to go to the bathroom, use the bathroom, and I watch TV with her, and I comb her hair sometimes in the night,” she said.

But one day in March, the woman’s daughter told her not to come back, saying she wanted to protect her mother during the coronavirus pandemic.

St. Hilaire is black and a Haitian immigrant. And her situation is an example of what early data from this crisis shows: People of color have lost work at greater rates than white workers.

The March jobs data show a number of racial and ethnic disparities in the economic impact of the coronavirus. For example: the share of white people who are employed fell by 1.1% last month. That rate fell by substantially more for black people (a 1.6% drop), Asian Americans (1.7%), and Latinos (2.1%). Economist Christian Weller highlighted this data and more at Forbes earlier this month.

In addition, a survey from the left-leaning Data for Progress found that 45% of black workers have lost jobs or had their hours cut, compared with 31% for white workers. (Samples were not large enough to break out other racial and ethnic groups.)

Losing her job landed St. Hilaire in dire straits. She was able to delay her rent payment after she talked to her landlord.

“​I said to her my situation. She said, ‘OK.’ She understood my situation. She gave me more days,” St. Hilaire said, but she added that shelter isn’t her only concern. “Two weeks before [that], I was out of food. That’s crazy.”

She ended up getting some food supplies from a local aid group. She plans to apply for unemployment and also has a GoFundMe whose proceeds she plans to share with fellow domestic aides.

A big reason for these racial and ethnic gaps has to do with the workplaces that have been hurt most by the economic crisis.

“We know which industries are being hit the hardest,” says Gbenga Ajilore, senior economist at the left-leaning Center for American Progress. “So we look at leisure and hospitality, transportation, utilities, industries that are first ones were hit really hard. We also know service — think hairdressers, salons. We know which ones are getting hit hard, and we know who’s in those occupations.”

People of color — and in the case of domestic workers like St. Hilaire, women of color — are disproportionately in those occupations. Nearly three-quarters of domestic workers were out of work the week of April 6, according to a survey from the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

Similar patterns turn up in other industries hurt most by the coronavirus slowdown. The latest jobs report showed more than 450,000 job losses in leisure and hospitality — a category that includes hotels and restaurants. Black, Asian and Latino workers are all disproportionately represented in the hotel industry, and Latino workers have heavy representation in restaurants.

That includes Erick Velasquez, who is Mexican American and who until recently was head bartender at a Greek restaurant in Houston.

“Everything just happened so quick. We’re watching the news, and they talk about COVID-19, and nobody really thought much about it,” he said. “And then a few days after then that’s when they — the city or the county — closed down dining rooms for restaurants everywhere.”

Velasquez has managed to find a temporary job — helping his fellow laid-off workers. He’s a case worker now at the Southern Smoke Foundation, a nonprofit that supports people in the restaurant industry. And he sees racial and ethnic gaps among the people he’s helping.

“​Everybody in the restaurant industry is hurting, but more so, it’s the people that you don’t really see when you go into a restaurant,” Velasquez said. “It’s like the back of the house workers, the immigrant community, the people of color.”

There’s also evidence of disparities in who is able to work from home during this crisis: 30% of white people and 37% of Asian Americans could work from home in 2017 and 2018, according to the Labor Department. Meanwhile, only 20% of black people could. In addition, only 16% of Latinos could work from home, compared to nearly twice as many non-Latinos.

The March jobs report that much of this analysis is based on only captured the start of the economic crisis created by COVID-19. The April report, which will be released May 8, will show if racial gaps have persisted.

If those gaps do continue, it could make existing inequalities worse. The unemployment rates for blacks and Latinos, for example, are always higher than the broader national unemployment rate. Wages for blacks and Latinos are also lower than for other groups.

Ajilore thinks it was easier to ignore these types of gaps when the economy was humming along with record-low unemployment. Now, the economic crisis brought about by the pandemic is holding a magnifying glass to those gaps.

​”Once this pandemic hit, then it’s like you see the cracks in the structure,” he said.

Source: Job Losses Higher Among People Of Color During Coronavirus Pandemic

And nursing home deaths in NYC:

There’s one thing that distinguishes the nursing homes in New York that have reported patient deaths from COVID-19. According to an NPR analysis, they are far more likely to be made up of people of color.

NPR looked at 78 nursing homes in New York in which six or more residents have died of COVID-19. In one facility, 55 people have died as of April 20. Ten others report 30 or more deaths.

Seven of the 11 nursing homes with the highest number of deaths report that 46 percent or more of their residents are “non-white.” Most of these “non-white” residents are black and latinx. At one facility, the Franklin Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Queens, which reported 45 deaths, 80 percent of the residents are minority, including 47 percent who are Asian.

NPR filed a public records request with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and collected data on every nursing home in the United States. We focused our analysis on New York because that state has the most deaths of COVID-19, by far.

Fifty-eight percent of the deaths in the state happened in nursing homes in New York City. Those nursing homes, the NPR numbers show, are notable for their high percentages of residents of color.

But even most of the residents who died in facilities in other parts of the state were living in nursing homes that had a high percentage of residents of color. The population in those facilities tend to reflect the demographics of the counties where they were located.

The racial imbalance in the deaths in New York nursing homes reflects another national trend: That among all fatalities, across the country, from COVID-19, black and Hispanic people make up a disproportionate share of the dying.

NPR analyzed other data too, including the federal government’s system for rating nursing homes that gives each facility a star rating from one to five.

In New York state, nursing homes that recorded deaths actually had better quality scores than other nursing homes. Half of the facilities that report deaths get four or five star ratings from Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare website, indications of “above average” or “much above average” quality.

On other indicators, there was little difference between nursing homes with deaths reported and other facilities in the state. Staffing levels were about the same. Their reliance on Medicaid patients — who bring lower reimbursements — was similar, too. Their occupancy rates — which can indicate problems at a facility if low — also were roughly the same.

But the nursing homes with outbreaks were often larger facilities. Three of those facilities have 700 or more residents. Almost half — 38 out of the 78, including some of the largest in the state — are in New York City.

Nationwide, people living in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities make up close to one out of five deaths nationwide from COVID-19, according to The New York Times.

“It is not surprising that this is exaggerated,” Dr. Clyde Yancy, chief of cardiology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, said of NPR’s findings of the racial imbalance in deaths at nursing homes. He wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association about the long history of racial disparities in health care and how it plays out now in this pandemic.

For “someone living in a nursing home who has suffered more extensive complications to a disease process because of already embedded health disparities,” says Yancy, “one can only imagine what happens when that individual now is facing coronavirus infection, potential COVID-19 complications.”

Years of inequality can lead to less access to health care, to hard lives and jobs, to a greater likelihood of developing diabetes, asthma and other conditions that now put people in those nursing homes at greater risk.

Nursing homes are now being recognized as one of the front lines of the pandemic. The residents are often frail, they have underlying health problems.

Nurse aides — who work for low wages — do the hands-on care. They get people out of bed, bathe them and take them to the toilet. They and other staffers were some of the last to get masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment. That made it easier for the virus to spread, notes Dr. Dora Hughes, of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University.

“For all of our pandemic response, much of our attention has focused, appropriately, on hospitals. But I think for what we’ve seen with the nursing home is a fairly stark reminder that we need to really expand our thinking in terms of essential workers,” says Hughes. “The direct care staff, should have been a greater priority.”

Source: In New York Nursing Homes, Death Comes To Facilities With More People Of Color

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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