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'Disconnected from reality': Latinos hit hard by Covid slam Trump's remarks

"Of course it's dominating me," says a woman whose mother, a health care worker, died of the coronavirus.
Image: Sean Conley
President Trump boards Marine One on Monday to return to the White House after receiving treatments for Covid-19 at Walter Reed hospital in Bethesda, Md.Evan Vucci / AP

Fiana Tulip has been thinking about her mother's death every day for the past three months. Her mother, a respiratory therapist in Texas, died July 4 alone in a hospital bed after a week with Covid-19.

When Tulip learned that President Donald Trump was infected with the coronavirus, she felt it could signal a change.

"I had truly hoped that he would be humbled by his own experience and the experience of seeing cases erupt among his staff," Tulip, 40, told NBC News. "I hoped that he would act decisively to persuade his supporters that wearing masks and social distancing were essential to protecting themselves and their loved ones."

However, she says her feelings faded after Trump downplayed the severity of the coronavirus in a series of media appearances, video messages and tweets.

"I've learned so much about the coronavirus and one thing is for certain, don't let it dominate you. Don't be afraid of it. We're going to beat it," said Trump in a video message Monday. "Don't let it dominate you lives. Get out there, be careful."

For Tulip, Trump's remarks were hard to swallow.

"It really hurt. ... It was painful," she said. "As someone who lost my mom, and who feels that heaviness of her loss every single day, of course it's dominating me. I don't have a choice."

While Latinos are under 19 percent of the U.S. population, they make up almost one-third of coronavirus deaths nationwide, according to CDC data analyzed by Salud America, a health research institute in San Antonio. Among some age groups, like those 35 to 44, the distribution of Latino Covid deaths is almost 50 percent; among Latinos ages 45-54, it's almost 44 percent.

Isabelle Papadimitriou (left) and Fiana Tulip (right).
Isabelle Papadimitriou (left) and Fiana Tulip (right).Courtesy Fiana Tulip

Many Latinos who have been infected or died of the coronavirus are front-line or essential workers.

Isabelle Papadimitriou, Tulip's mother, is one of them. Papadimitrou, 64, of Mexican descent, was a respiratory therapist in Dallas, treating patients amid the pandemic.

Tulip said Trump's message downplaying the dangers of the virus was going to health care workers "who are living in a constant state of fear."

"They're in fear of transmitting the virus, the unknown aspects of the virus, the longterm effects of the virus on themselves and on their patients," Tulip said, "and he's saying, 'don't let it dominate you'? It's so disconnected from reality."

"He doesn't want to be held accountable, he doesn't want to be blamed," said Tulip. "So as a result, he's just ignoring the reality."

Over 4 in 10 (41.2 percent) front-line workers are Black, Hispanic or Asian-American/Pacific Islander, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, an economic policy think tank. Hispanics are especially overrepresented in building cleaning services (40.2 percent of workers).

Hispanics also have the highest uninsured rates of any racial or ethnic group in the U.S., according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

The coronavirus has killed at least 6,307 people in Los Angeles County; 60 percent are Latino.

Dr. Don García is the medical director of Clínica Romero, which provides health services to underserved communities in the predominantly Latino neighborhoods of Boyle Heights and Pico-Union in Los Angeles County. Disparities in health care access, occupation and socio-economic status have put Latinos in his community at an increased risk of contracting Covid-19.

Trump said Sunday that he has "learned a lot about Covid" after treating the disease at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Garcia said the president received treatments that any other person in the country would receive only "if they were intubated or put in a ventilator."

"He has access to all these cocktails, all these medications and to the best treatment in the military hospital," Garcia said in response to the president's remarks. "That isn't the reality of the health care system any other person who has Covid-19 deals with," especially for Americans from poor or more vulnerable communities.

Boyle Heights and Pico-Union's coronavirus death rates drastically surpass those of the entire Los Angeles County, García said.

While L.A. County's coronavirus death rate is 60 deaths per 100,000 population, Pico-Union's death rate is almost four times higher, and the coronavirus death rate in Boyle Heights is 82 deaths per 100,000 people.

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