Latinas Comprise Disproportionate Share of COVID-19 Cases Among Pregnant Women

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Everything was perfect for Alfredo Chable and his wife, Juanita Marchán. The Mexican couple had been buying baby clothes, toys, and preparing their son for the arrival of their second child when Marchán felt body aches and ran a high fever 36 weeks into her pregnancy in mid-June.

Chable rushed his wife to the hospital in Houston and said goodbye to his wife, a day before they were supposed to celebrate their 11-year wedding anniversary. Two days later, after his wife tested positive for the coronavirus, Chable received the worst news of his life: Juanita Marchán had passed away from virus complications.

"I can't believe this happened to my family," said Chable. "My heart is broken."

Chable's son is still in the neonatal intensive care unit after doctors performed an emergency cesarean section on Marchán the day before she died.

Marchán represents a growing number of Latinas who comprise a disproportionate share of coronavirus cases according to the latest pregnancy data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To date, the CDC said it is aware of 11,312 pregnant women who have tested positive for COVID-19. Of that amount, Hispanic and Latino women accounted for more than 4,500 cases, with 3,252 hospitalized and 31 who have died.

Dr. Atul Nakhasi, a primary care physician and policy adviser at the Department of Health Services in Los Angeles, the nation's second-largest health system, said multiple factors can explain the data released by the CDC.

"Pregnant women access health care more regularly, they need to come in for their ultrasounds or prenatal appointments, they need to come in regularly and routinely to check on mom and check on baby," Nakhasi told ABC News. "They're in the health care setting which is arguably one of the most high-risk environments."

According to a morbidity and mortality study mentioned in the CDC report, among reproductive-age women with COVID-19, pregnancy was associated with hospitalization and increased risk for intensive care unit admission, and receipt of mechanical ventilation, but not with death.

"Pregnant women had more severe outcomes than non-pregnant women, they were hospitalized at five times the rate of pregnant women with COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant women with COVID-19 and they were more likely to go into ICU for critical care," said Nakhasi. "But the interesting thing is pregnant women with COVID-19 have lower mortality rates. Are doctors being extra cautious and upgrading them to critical care status and maybe protecting their lungs early by putting in a breathing tube? "

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