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More than 75% of Durham's COVID-19 cases are in the Latinx community

More than 75% of coronavirus cases are within the Latinx community in Durham, said the Durham County Department of Public Health Director Rodney Jenkins in a coronavirus task force meeting Friday morning.

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Maggie Brown
, WRAL multiplatform producer
DURHAM, N.C. — The number of people infected with the coronavirus in the Hispanic community continues to rise in Durham. A total of 77% of Durham County's coronavirus cases reported in June are within the Latinx community, said the Department of Public Health Director Rodney Jenkins in a coronavirus task force meeting Friday morning.

Last month, that number was at 67%. Hispanics only make up around 13% of the population, which means they are disproportionately affected by the virus.

By comparison, white people who tested positive for the virus only make up 12% of Durham County's June COVID-19 cases, while making up of a "bulk" of the residents, Jenkins said.

The Black community represents 10% of the COVID-19 June cases in the county and around a third of the entire Durham population, according to U.S. Census data. While that percentage shows the Black community is more affected by the virus than the white community for the month, Latinos in Durham are by far most vulnerable to the virus.

People who are unemployed, who work in construction or are janitors are also more likely to test positive for coronavirus, according to Durham's numbers. Construction and janitorial jobs tend to oversample for Latinx employees, Jenkins said.

Durham has had a mask requirement in place since April 20. Durham Mayor Steve Schewel said, two months later, the city is still working to try and make sure everyone has a mask. Language barriers and cultural awareness make it difficult to get a mask to everyone.

"Our Latinx cases continue to be our most important concern," Schewel said.

In the coming weeks, Schewel said Durham will make an amendment to its order and require businesses to have signs on their door informing residents about the mask mandate. Officials hope to inform residents about the mask mandate and the public health crisis through these signs.

"That's going to be important but not enough," Schewel said.

"The numbers continue to tell us that more work needs to be done," Jenkins said.

Contact tracing has also proven to be a challenge. Many of the coronavirus cases in Durham are lost in the mix and follow-up has been difficult.

Wendy Jacobs, chair of the Durham Board of County Commissioners, posed the idea during Friday's task force meeting of Durham paying Latino community leaders to be health ambassadors and inform their specific communities about COVID-19.

"I feel like we have really very few tools in our toolbox around this virus and so much is unknown," Jacobs said.

Numbers show there has also been an increase in community spread. Before April, many of the coronavirus cases in Durham were due to people bringing in the virus from outside of the county. Now, many of the cases are popping up in the community, and individuals are getting sick and they don't know why. Jenkins said that's due to community spread.

Durham officials and community leaders asked the public to stand with the governor in staying in Phase 2 and with the face mask requirement.


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