School-aged children from Latinx families are disproportionately affected by the technology gap as COVID-19 shuts down schools in Colorado.
Job loss, evictions, lack of access to mental health, and wellness support. These are all realities and consequences of COVID-19 for many families across the United States. Yet evidence shows that the virus continues to excessively affect people of color.
Data suggests that COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Latinx communities across the country. On average, Latinx people are three times more likely to contract the deadly virus compared to a white person. The disproportionate rates of infection have been particularly obvious in the state of Colorado.
Even though Latinx people make up an estimated 22% of the population in Colorado, they make up to 38% of the total coronavirus cases in the state. The graph below shows that cases among Latinx people in Colorado are comparable to cases among White people who make up to 87.1% of the population.
Cases are especially high in Latinx communities in Denver, where they make up to over 52% of total cases.
The high number of COVID-19 cases in Latinx communities could be attributed to the minimal work from home opportunities many Latinx people have, and not having access to a steady internet connection.
An executive order by Governor Polis asked all schools in Colorado to close on March 18th. Although schools had the opportunities later to open up, many districts had already decided to move their teaching completely online.
A report by Colorado Future Centre estimated that there are almost 55,000 school-aged children in Colorado who do not have reliable internet connections in their homes, and more than 75% of them are from a Hispanic background. Many of these school-aged children, also have parents who work in companies that do not allow them to work from home. An estimated 57% of these parents are considered essential workers.
In response to these educational barriers, Colorado state filed a petition which urged Federal Communications Commission to waive restrictions on federally funded broadband access in student homes. The petition hoped to extend the access of internet connectivity to student’s homes.
Colorado’s Commissioner of Education, Katy Anthes, announced in September that the state will invest $2 million in coronavirus relief funds to ensure that all students have access to the necessary resources which will allow them to study from home.
The state is also working closely with large telecommunications companies, to provide a free hotspot for families of students. T-mobile is working on providing 100GB of data a year for low-income families which will be available for the next five years.
Many not-for-profit organizations, such as RISE Colorado, are also focusing on initiatives which that will support families with school-aged children who do not have access to educational resources during this uncertain time.
Note: I have scheduled interviews with RISE Colorado and a student who has been affected by the pandemic this week. This story is a deviation from my original pitch and is focused more specifically on how COVID has widened the technology gap for students in Colorado.