Gov. Gavin Newsom is pushing to decrease the overrepresentation of people of color in coronavirus cases and deaths across the state by directly engaging minority communities and partnering with local health officials.
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“You can see some trend lines that have legitimately and understandably become headlines all across this country and that’s the disparity in race and ethnicity in terms of total positive cases and in terms total number of deaths across the state of California,” Newsom said at a Friday news conference.
Newsom said his administration will work with county health officers throughout the state in an effort to reach the Latino and black communities and help increase their access to testing.
Latinos are hit particularly hard, according to state data. While the Latino community makes up nearly 40% of the state’s population, it also has over half of the total positive virus cases and 38% of deaths.
In Orange County, the numbers have recently stabilized relative to the Latino population, which makes up over 34% of OC residents. Orange County Latinos have 36% of the total cases in the county and have 32% of the deaths, according to updated county numbers.
Just over 2% of OC’s residents are black, and have 2% of the deaths and cases.
Whites constitute 40% of OC’s population, but make up 19% of cases and 37% of the deaths.
There’s also an unknown category of race and ethnicity that makes up 26% of confirmed cases and 8% of deaths.
The study also notes poor OC communities, which are often Latino, saw case counts steadily rise after the March 19 stay home orders were issued by Newsom because people weren’t able to work from home.
“The nature of essential work in the state of California is being overrepresented by people of color in the state,” Newsom said.
The virus has now killed 145 people out of 5,923 confirmed cases in Orange County, according to Friday’s updated counts from the county. There are also another 255 people hospitalized, including 98 in intensive care units. So far, just over 2,300 people have recovered and roughly 116,300 tests have been conducted throughout OC, which is home to over 3.2 million people.
Working class cities with large Latino populations are getting hit hardest by the virus in OC.
Anaheim, which is home to a large working class community on its west side, has a population of nearly 360,000 and just over 1,000 confirmed virus cases.
Santa Ana, which is home to nearly 338,000 people, has over 1,100 cases.
And while they’re the two largest OC cities, they have considerably more confirmed cases than the third most populous city, Irvine.
Irvine has over 280,000 residents and only 189 cases.
Latino Health Access Chief Executive Officer, America Bracho, said many Latinos are scared of immigration authorities and aren’t reaching out to the county for help. So, the nonprofit has been helping the community get connected to testing and other vital resources, she said.
Bracho also said many working class Latinos in OC don’t have the ability to isolate if somebody gets the virus.
“Many of them can’t follow the recommendations to prevent the spread because they live in overcrowded environments,” Bracho said. “So if someone gets sick, forget it– everybody gets sick.”
Anaheim City Councilman Jose Moreno said the pandemic has laid inequalities on the table.
“Whatever inequalities we saw playing out have become that much more acute during a crisis of this nature,” Moreno said. “We know that Latinos are disproportionately essential workers in the economy. Something we said for years — America depends on immigrants, but then punishes immigrants.”
Newsom said the state will push to hire Latino contact tracers — people who determine who came into contact with an infected person — in an effort to get more responses from the community.
“Right now we’re living in a world of anxiety on many different levels. Including the anxiety for our Latino community and those of mixed status families that are very fearful around the rhetoric of deportation and the xenophobia rhetoric … so it’s important we have a tracing corps that looks like our communities, particularly in our Latino communities,” the governor said.
Here’s the latest on the virus numbers across Orange County from county data:
Digital Editor Sonya Quick contributed to this story. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sonyanews.