Orange County’s Asian and Pacific Islander communities continue to see an uptick in hate incidents since the pandemic started last year, largely fueled by people blaming the communities for the virus. 

And the hate incidents increase during virus surges.

“When there are spikes, when there are increases, we have seen an increase locally for anti-Asian hate,” said Mary Anne Foo, executive director  of the Orange County Asian Pacific Islander Community Alliance. 

The alliance, along with other community organizations, have been educating residents about pandemic protocols and vaccines, while offering testing during the pandemic.

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During a Wednesday news conference convened by Supervisor Katrina Foley, Foo noted that anti-Asian hate has always been around. 

“It’s also political too, because if we see anything related to immigration or economy — a lot of times we’ll see an increase (in hate incidents),” Foo told reporters. 

But the pandemic is the biggest driver of recent racism against the Asian community, she said. 

“It’s things like you need to go back to where you came from. You’re the cause of this, You’re from China, you’re communist,” Foo said. “People will follow people in stores and in parking lots and go after them saying all these things. There’s also spitting, coughing. We had people get hit.”  

Foley also noted some racist and bigoted remarks she’s heard duing public comment at OC Supervisors meetings. 

“We hear speakers that, in my opinion, that are often making comments that are truly bigoted and connecting COVID with communism,” Foley said, adding people say “the public health response to COVID is somehow related to communisim and tying it to China. It’s very sad to see that happening. I know that [OC Health Officer Dr. Clayton Chau] has taken the brunt of it, Charimon [Andrew] Do as well.” 

Over the past year, public comments during the OC Supervisors meetings have become increasingly hostile, especially towards Do and Chau. 

In July, one speaker — who called himself Tyler Durden, a fictional character from Fight Club — hurled racist insults at Do. 

“You come to my country, and you act like one of these communist parasites, I ask you to go the f*** back to Vietnam,” the man said.

The man’s comment drew some cheers from the crowd.

Do and his family fled South Vietnam when North Vietnamese forces were taking over.

The insults drew condemnation from elected Republicans and Democrats, including local party leaders. 

[Read: Local Political Leaders Condemn Racist Remarks Hurled at OC Supervisors’ Chairman]

The Orange County Human Relations Commission is expected to release its 2020 hate crime report on Friday.

“In 2020, hate incidents in Orange County more than doubled from 2019. Of the 263 reported hate incidents reported, 76 cases were related to anti-Asian discrimination, a ten-fold increase from last year. Anti-Semitism also saw a significant rise with 94 hate incidents reported compared to 44 in 2019,” reads a news relese about the incoming annual OC hate crime report.

Orange County’s Jewish community leaders have also condemned some of the remarks made by residents at public meetings, often times comparing vaccines and other pandemic protocols to the Holocaust. 

[Read: OC Jewish Community Calls For An End On Comparing Coronavirus Vaccine to Holocaust]

Foo also noted some hate crime trends. 

“In Orange County from March 2020 to June 2021, we had about 210 anti-Asian hate incidents or crimes here in Orange County alone. In California, we saw an increase of over 100%,” Foo said. “So community members were very, very concerned. We saw so many elders who did not want to leave their homes.” 

Meanwhile, Foo and the Orange County Asian Pacific Islander Community Alliance and the API Task Force have been doing outreach on both hate crime reporting and educating residents about pandemic protocols and vaccines during the pandemic. 

Foo noted the successes the community organizations are having with their vaccination efforts, targeting hard hit areas that often have overcrowded housing and face language barriers. 

“We were able to test over 44,000 community members and vaccinated almost 90,000 community members,” she said. 

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As of last Thursday, over 2 million OC residents are fully vaccinated, according to the county Health Care Agency.

New cases and virus hospitalizations are also decreasing. 

As of Wednesday, 368 people were hospitalized with COVID, including 103 in intensive care units. 

That’s down from 568 people in hospitals a month ago. 

But deaths from the surge are rolling in.

The OC Health Care Agency reported 10 new deaths Wednesday, bringing the total deaths to 5,326. 

That’s almost five times more people than the flu kills in two years, on average.

Orange County has averaged around 20,000 deaths a year since 2016, including 543 annual flu deaths, according to state health data.

Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC staff reporter. You can reach him at scustodio@voiceofoc.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio

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