Blacks, Latinos Affected by Omicron Spread in New Jersey

NOTE: This story is part of the “After the Pandemic: Reporting on NJ Underserved Communities” fellowship administered by the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University and financially supported by the Democracy Fund and Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media

ATLANTIC CITY – Dr. David Adinaro, deputy commissioner for public health services at the New Jersey Department of Health said Wednesday that while statistics are still being gathered, he suspects Blacks and Latinos are being significantly impacted by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus in the state.

Adinaro took questions from journalists during a news briefing on the Omicron variant, set by Montclair State University’s Center for Cooperative Media. The variant has been able to spread quickly because it has been able to mutate dozens of times, escaping most vaccines.

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The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Center reported that the United States on Monday set a global record with more than one million COVID-19 infections reported in one day, fueled by the Omicron spread.

The deputy commissioner said while he has not seen specific breakdowns by race and ethnicity dealing with the variant, the virus has played a large role in counties with large minority populations.

“Obviously, we are seeing a large number of cases coming from our most populated counties,” Adinaro said during the briefing in a question from Front Runner New Jersey. “So as an example, Essex County is seeing a very large number of cases right now. [People who] are living in closer quarters seem right now to be experiencing more spread of it.”

New Jersey has some of the highest COVID-19 rates in the country since the emergence of the Omicron variant. On Thursday, the state recorded 37,285 new cases and 216,384 over the past seven days. That is 2,436.2 per 100,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the latest New Jersey Health Department records, while Latinos make up 19% of the state population, they make up 22% of all COVID-19 cases in the state and 23.3% of the hospitalizations.

While coronavirus cases among Blacks in New Jersey essentially mirrors their population (13.2% of the cases compared with 13.4% of the population), African-Americans make up 18.3% of the hospitalizations.

Adinaro said it may take a couple more weeks before the state can produce a more concise breakdown on how the Omicron variant is affecting people of color and women in the state.

“I’m sure that they are being impacted because they were impacted before,” Adinaro said. “I think what is probably mitigating is the fact that we did make great strides. Those communities made great strides and getting vaccinated and boosted over the last six months in particular. But I don’t think I have any more specific data to share.”

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