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Report: Filipino COVID death rates called 'alarming'

Posted at 4:52 PM, Jul 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-24 21:39:06-04

CHULA VISTA, Calif. (KGTV) — As a South Bay family grieves, a new report is revealing some disturbing new numbers when it comes to COVID-19's impact on the Filipino community in Southern California.

Rick Malacas, a nursing assistant at Scripps Mercy Hospital Chula Vista, first felt sick in late June. He suffered body aches, followed by a headache, fever, and a positive COVID-19 test. More than a week later, he sent a message to his wife, Wil, in the next room.

"He texted me that he was having trouble breathing," said Wil.

She rushed him to the hospital. Days later, he suffered a stroke and was placed on a ventilator. Malacas, 45, passed away on July 11, leaving behind a wife, a grown son, and a 13-year-old daughter the couple adopted in December.

"He was my soulmate ... really said for me and my kids," said Wil.

Wil's life is hardly the only one impacted. A Los Angeles Times headline recently noted that Filipinos are dying of COVID-19 at an "alarming rate." According to the report, data compiled reveals Filipino Americans account for more than 35% of COVID-19 deaths in the state's Asian population. Filipino Americans account for about a quarter of Asian Americans in the state.

As for their mortality rate, that registered at a staggering 40% in Southern California, although the sample size is only about 50 cases and 19 deaths.

JoAnn Fields, who co-chairs a local Filipino COVID-19 task force, points to possible factors: many Filipinos live in larger households, work in the health care profession and have health-related issues.

"Filipinos have a higher rate for some underlying conditions, like diabetes and high blood pressure," said Fields.

Fields is calling for outreach programs similar to a county program appealing to the Latino community. She says she's heartened by the number of Filipino contact tracers, which has gone from two to 14 since the program started.

A Gofundme campaign has been set up for the Malacas family to help with expenses.