After data busted the myth that COVID-19 was “the great equalizer” and made it clear the disease has had disproportionate affects on Santa Clara County’s Latinx population, public health officials say rates finally are starting to decrease in the hardest hit communities.
“The rates among the Latinx community were really soaring in July. They were across the county but particularly steep in the Latinx community and to some extent in the African American community,” said Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody. “We are now seeing the rates decline not just across the county but most steeply among the Latinx community.”
The announcement came during a virtual meeting with La Raza Roundtable de California Sept. 25.
State data showed the case rates for the county’s Latinx community reached about 30 positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents daily in July. In early September, case rates dropped to 10 positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents.
Throughout the pandemic, Latinx people have accounted for about 57% of cases and 34% of the deaths in Santa Clara County, according to county data, while only making up about 26% of its population.
Cody said crowded and multi-generation housing contributed to the high rates of COVID-19 transmission among Latinx people during the summer.
In addition, many essential workers, of whom many are Latinx, faced difficulties obtaining adequate COVID-19 protection because of “structural reasons,” Cody said.
Although case rates were disproportionately high in East San Jose and parts of Gilroy, Cody said the numbers for Latinx people were higher than others no matter where they lived.
However, county health officials have worked with numerous community organizations to create pop-up testing sites, conduct outreach and practice contact tracing.
Analilia Garcia, the county’s Racial and Health Equity Manager, said health officials opened a new office in East San Jose.
The office, dubbed “te East San Jose COVID-19 Hub,” will be at La Placita Tropicana on Story Road and King Road and house the East Side’s community outreach team, Garcia said.
She said the office will be where the county conducts its violence prevention program, data collection, education and testing in East San Jose.
The goal of the hub, Garcia said, is to base more public health services in the East Side to work more with community organizations and build trust with residents in the area.
“We heard from our promotores that were partnering with us on this work about the importance of addressing the fear and the mistrust that communities, rightfully so, have of government,” she said.
The county teamed up with the Sí Se Puede Collective to build a community outreach team for the East Side. Garcia added the county is aiming to establish community partnerships in Gilroy as well.
The community outreach team has 50 total promotores, 29 of whom can speak Spanish, she said.
Outreach teams also are visiting multiple businesses in the East Side, allowed to open under county guidelines, to educate them on required health protocols.
Cody said it was hard to predict when businesses could reopen as outbreaks happen fast and case rates decrease slowly.
“We get in trouble really fast and then it takes a lot of work and a lot of time to get out of trouble,” Cody said. “So this is a very, very, very tough situation because the communities that are suffering the most from from COVID itself are also the communities that are suffering the most from the economic damage of businesses being closed.”
Health officials said the best practice during the pandemic is to stay apart despite how difficult that may be for families.
Contact Mauricio La Plante at [email protected] or follow @mslaplantenews on Twitter.