This year in Santa Ana, many local activists will be focusing their Dia De Los Muertos activities around staying alive.

Norberto Santana, Jr.

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A host of Santa Ana community organizations today are changing the focus of their yearly Dia de los Muertos events around offering COVID-19 vaccination clinics — hoping to curb the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on the Latino community.

At the same time, another event, Viva la Vida, is planning all day activities in downtown Santa Ana around altars and entertainment. 

Last year’s winter COVID surge was OC’s deadliest period of the pandemic, with hospitalizations spiking, soon followed by record deaths in December and January. 

Latinos continue to be hit the hardest by the pandemic.

Orange County’s Latino community has been hit the hardest by the virus with 44% of the overall cases and 38% of deaths, according to data from the OC Health Care Agency.

The community makes up nearly 36% of Orange County’s vaccine-eligible residents — those 12 and older — but roughly 28% have received at least one shot, according to state data.

This week, Orange County Health Care Agency officials unveiled troubling COVID numbers during a Friday media conference call — raising the spectre that the winter surge is already here.

OC’s Deputy Public Health Officer, Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, told reporters on the Friday press call – which is not broadcast on social media platforms like Facebook – that there were significant Covid case rate increases across the board.

Chinsio-Kwong told reporters that case rates have increased since last week.

“Our positivity rates also increased to 2.8, from 2.3,” Chinsio-Kwong reported.

“Hospitalizations are up, at 212 – compared to 193 at the end of last week. and our [intensive care unit] admissions are also slightly up, at 52, which is up from 47 late last week.”

“And when you look at the case rate trends overall, they’re all on the rise.”

Chinsio-Kwong noted the starkest trend in mind was the fact that “most of the cases are amongst the unvaccinated, and that there still remains five-fold increase in cases among unvaccinated, compared to those who are vaccinated.”

Given that Latinos remain among the least vaccinated groups in Orange County, local hospitals in cities like Santa Ana and Anaheim could be in for a grim reality check unless vaccination rates improve and case rates go down. 

One of the biggest challenges facing working class Latinos is getting access to clinics between busy work schedules and addressing the worry of losing pay from missing work from the flu-like side effects of the vaccine on many people that get the shots. 

Additionally, many community health care workers also warn that there are significant vaccination hesitation issues in the Latino community. 

Groups like Latino Health Access are working to meet that challenge head on. 

“It has been demonstrated that the way to fight misinformation at the core is to have open conversations with people — so they can have trusted sources. So I’m not going to fight misinformation on Facebook with another Facebook post,” the group’s Executive Director, America Bracho, told Voice of OC late last month.

She said having personal conversations with people to ease their vaccine concerns is the best way to reverse misinformation.

“In a way that they are not humiliated,” Bracho said.

HCA officials confirm that they are working to get such groups resources to do outreach. 

“We’ve been working with Latino Health Access and MECCA and other [community-based organizations], as well as community health clinics,” Chinso-Kwong said. 

“And we do have, actually, a vaccine clinic there with Latino Health Access, and our mobile teams are actually targeting areas that have higher density of population of the Latinx community. So we have been working with that. And I know that there’s also – some of our partners are working on messaging via radio and other organizations in schools to get the word out, trying to get this population vaccinated.”

The targeted efforts, Chinsio-Kwong said, have been paying off.

“We do realize that there is still a gap, but over the last few weeks we still have seen incremental change, with a higher number of people getting vaccinated in those highly populated areas.”

Today, from 4 p.m. to 7 pm., Latino Health Access will be holding the “Viva la Vida Vaccination Clinic” at the main offices at 450 W. Fourth St. in Santa Ana. 

Another vaccine clinic will be hosted on the other side of Santa Ana’s downtown, at El Centro Cultural De Mexico at 837 N. Ross St. from noon until 6 p.m. 

Yet another downtown Santa Ana event, Viva la Vida, is planned from 1 p..m. until 10 p.m. Saturday night and will feature altars and entertainment. 

Despite the warnings being voiced by HCA officials in interviews with reporters, Orange County’s Health Care Agency continues to send out mixed public messages about hosting community events. 

“For Día de Los Muertos, the community is encouraged to celebrate only with members of your household or online,” reads a Oct. 30 Tweet sent out by the Orange County Health Care Agency. 


That kind of squishy public messaging, along with nagging vaccination gaps throughout the pandemic, may not only complicate efforts to keep case rates down but ultimately drive Santa Ana officials to establish their own Public Health Department like Long Beach. 

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