Experiences of Latinx Individuals Hospitalized for COVID-19: A Qualitative Study

06 April 2021

Importance Latinx individuals, particularly immigrants, are at higher risk than non-Latinx White individuals of contracting and dying from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Little is known about Latinx experiences with COVID-19 infection and treatment. Objective To describe the experiences of Latinx individuals who were hospitalized with and survived COVID-19. Design, Setting, and Participants The qualitative study used semistructured phone interviews of 60 Latinx adults who survived a COVID-19 hospitalization in public hospitals in San Francisco, California, and Denver, Colorado, from March 2020 to July 2020. Transcripts were analyzed using qualitative thematic analysis. Data analysis was conducted from May 2020 to September 2020. Main Outcomes and Measures Themes and subthemes that reflected patient experiences. Results Sixty people (24 women and 36 men; mean [SD] age, 48 [12] years) participated. All lived in low-income areas, 47 participants (78%) had more than 4 people in the home, and most (44 participants [73%]) were essential workers. Four participants (9%) could work from home, 12 (20%) had paid sick leave, and 21 (35%) lost their job because of COVID-19. We identified 5 themes (and subthemes) with public health and clinical care implications: COVID-19 was a distant and secondary threat (invincibility, misinformation and disbelief, ingrained social norms); COVID-19 was a compounder of disadvantage (fear of unemployment and eviction, lack of safeguards for undocumented immigrants, inability to protect self from COVID-19, and high-density housing); reluctance to seek medical care (worry about health care costs, concerned about ability to access care if uninsured or undocumented, undocumented immigrants fear deportation); health care system interactions (social isolation and change in hospital procedures, appreciation for clinicians and language access, and discharge with insufficient resources or clinical information); and faith and community resiliency (spirituality, Latinx COVID-19 advocates). Conclusions and Relevance In interviews, Latinx patients with COVID-19 who survived hospitalization described initial disease misinformation and economic and immigration fears as having driven exposure and delays in presentation. To confront COVID-19 as a compounder of social disadvantage, public health authorities should mitigate COVID-19-related misinformation, immigration fears, and challenges to health care access, as well as create policies that provide work protection and address economic disadvantages.