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Essential jobs, multigenerational homes: Filipino Canadians are bearing a heavy brunt of COVID-19

April 11, 2021

As Greg Carlos lay in isolation in the basement bedroom of his Steinbach, Man., home, recovering from the muscle soreness, dizziness and digestive issues that had racked his body since he’d contracted COVID-19, he heard the sound he’d been dreading coming from the floor above: A loud, persistent cough. “It sounded like their lungs just wanted to give up,” he recalls.

Though Mr. Carlos, a 29-year-old health care aide at a long-term care home, had taken care to isolate himself from his family as soon as he’d developed symptoms of COVID-19 in early November last year, it was already too late. His parents soon tested positive, as did his wife Angela.

They represent four of the approximately 1,900 cases of COVID-19 logged among Filipino residents from May to the end of December last year in Manitoba – the only province to track and publish race-based data for infections. Filipinos make up 7 per cent of the province’s population, but accounted for 12 per cent of COVID-19 cases, making them the most overrepresented group in the province, according to data the province released in March.

Though Manitoba is the only province that can quantify the caseload for Filipinos specifically, physicians, labour unions and community advocates have said that in many parts of the country, this ethnic group has shouldered a disproportionate burden of the virus owing in part to how many take on essential jobs and live in multigenerational homes. While the collection of these data has been heralded, it may be too late into the pandemic to enact the policy changes required to correct that overrepresentation.

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