Hispanic adults are four times more likely to have prior traces of a COVID-19 infection when compared to the average Virginian, according to a Virginia Department of Health (VDH) study published Friday.
The VDH Coronavirus Serology Project was conducted this summer from June 1 to August 14 by adult patients in Virginia presenting non-COVID related symptoms agreeing to complete a questionnaire and provide a blood sample for antibody testing.
Of the 4,675 people tested, roughly 2.4 percent of adults showed evidence of antibodies from a prior case of COVID-19. Hispanic adults among the group had a much higher presence of COVID-19 antibodies at 10.2 percent, according to the study.
“The results are in line with the preliminary findings we reported in August that suggested a relatively low rate of COVID-19 exposure overall among Virginia adults,” said Dr. Norman Oliver, Virginia State Health Commissioner. “Virginians are avoiding infections by following recommendations on wearing masks, social distancing and handwashing. We continue to study the higher rate of infection in Hispanic adults and to work with community partners to formulate additional interventions.”
The study also found that 4.4 percent of residents in northern Virginia, where COVID has been more prevalent, and 3.8 percent of people who are uninsured or insured through Medicaid showed the presence of antibodies.
The VDH said people of Hispanic ethnicity, living in an apartment building or a multi-family housing unit significantly increases the risk of having a positive antibody test.
Del. Jason Miyares (R-Virginia Beach) was surprised by the findings and thought the higher rates among Hispanics may have something to do with aspects of Latin culture.
“It’s obviously disturbing,” Miyares said. “I don’t know exactly why. I don’t know if it’s somewhat cultural because, as a Cuban American, your culture is to embrace people and to hug people, particularly loved ones in your family. Obviously, that also violates social distancing [guidelines].”
Miyares also mentioned how many Hispanic households there can be three generations living together.
The results and information from the serology study will help public health officials and Virginia hospitals plan for future urgent healthcare needs, VDH said.
VDH partnered with five different health systems across Virginia’s regions to estimate the total number of Virginians infected with COVID-19 since March including Inova Health System, Virginia Commonwealth University, Sentara Healthcare, Carilion Clinic, and University of Virginia, according to the study.
As of Saturday, there are 139,655 cases, 10,562 hospitalizations and 2,990 deaths in Virginia. Latinos account for 33,296 cases, 2,969 hospitalizations and 297 deaths, according to the VDH COVID-19 daily dashboard.
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