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Reopening the Economy Could Affect Latinx Essential Workers

Reopening the Economy Too Soon Could Negatively Impact Latinx Essential Workers

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 27: People ride the Staten Island Ferry, which commutes between Staten Island and Manhattan on April 27, 2020 in New York City. Hospitals in New York City, which have been especially hard hit by the coronavirus, are just beginning to see a downturn in COVID-19 cases.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Hispanic and Latinx communities like my own have become part of the backbone carrying us through this pandemic. In America, Hispanics and Latinxs disproportionately work in retail and service industries — overwhelmingly the industries deemed essential during a pandemic.

These are also the most front-facing consumer jobs. In fact, Black and brown people make up 75 percent of the front-line workers in New York City, according to a study from Scott M. Stringer, the city's comptroller. They are delivering food and manning the cash register at your local chain pharmacy. Keep in mind, these aren't jobs that typically come with healthcare plans or 401(k) options.

With the good news that New York is officially on the downside of its peak in daily coronavirus deaths, reopening America feels inevitable. But should we jump to it right away?

Reopening the economy too soon can negatively impact Hispanic and Latinx workers (and their families) who are already stretched thin. Many of our homes have multiple generations living under one roof. My tias, Mayra and Monica, and younger cousins, for example, cared for my tata into his later years in a single-family home.

Hispanic and Latinx workers come home from work to children, parents, and grandparents. Because of overexposure, even more of these essential workers and their family members — especially those who are at higher risk — could suffer as a result of reopening too soon.

My pregnant sister, Anna, is working through the pandemic as a receptionist for a company that mounts TVs in Hoover, AL. On one hand, I love that she will have health insurance when the baby comes. On the other hand, who considers home theater installation an essential service right now?

Some states have already started pulling back on self-isolation measures. Georgia is easing social distancing, including opening gyms and nail salons. Florida reopened its beaches.

It is our responsibility to care for each other during a pandemic. This means making choices about what we buy and how we buy it, prioritizing what we think is essential in a non-pandemic situation vs. what really is essential. It also means donating to charities, causes, and organizations that are supporting those suffering the most during this time if your situation allows it. Now is the time to tip heavily.

Volunteer (virtually) instead of watching a movie. There are things to do and places to give to if you want to keep busy while the world continues to fight this virus. We can't be reckless with human life just because we need a haircut.

We will bounce back from this eventually. We will reopen and rebuild. If you really care about the economy, protect the people who are keeping life afloat during this time by staying at home as much as possible.

We can't stimulate the economy if we are dead. Consider the health of our healthcare professionals, grocery store clerks, and food delivery workers and their families. Let's protect our community.

Image Source: Getty / Spencer Platt
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