People of color overrepresented in Santa Clara County COVID-19 deaths
Santa Clara County Public Health Director Dr. Sara Cody detailed the latest shelter in place revisions at the County Chambers Tuesday. Photo by Katie Lauer.

People of color are overrepresented in Santa Clara County deaths from the novel coronavirus, according to new health figures released Thursday.

Of the 47 COVID-19 deaths in the county, 36% are Latino while 4% are African Americans, though each group makes up about 25% and 2.8% of the county’s population, respectively, census data shows. Meanwhile, Asian Americans were underrepresented in COVID-19 virus deaths, at 23%, compared to their overall population of more than 38% of the county.

At 34%, white people were slightly overrepresented in deaths but only make up 31% of the overall county population. Two percent of the deaths were classified as “other.”

The numbers released by the Santa Clara County Public Health Department on Thursday followed several agencies that have disclosed racial statistics for COVID-19 deaths, revealing that black people and other people of color have been overrepresented in cases and deaths across the country.

County officials said they do not have complete or accurate racial or ethnic breakdowns of confirmed cases, but plan to release more information as it becomes available. The county also provided data on confirmed cases by geographical area across Santa Clara County.

“The county recognizes that social determinants of health, including race/ethnicity, employment, and income may affect the distribution of cases and the severity of cases across the community,” officials said in a news release Thursday. “The county and its community partners are actively working together to support and provide needed resources to communities who may be more vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19.”

As county health officials said in a briefing Tuesday, social determinants — factors around policy, society and environment that impact people’s ability to live healthy — contribute to susceptibility of COVID-19 and other chronic illnesses. These factors include housing, access to affordable fruits and vegetables, health care access, transportation and history of trauma and discrimination, said Nicole Coxe, a county health official.

Santa Clara County Public Health Department’s data as of April 9, 2020.

Evelyn Ho, a county Public Health Department spokeswoman, said Tuesday history of poverty, structural racism, educational access and language barriers can prevent communities from following the county’s shelter in place order to stop the virus’ spread, or even isolate when someone gets sick.

“We are continuing to further those discussions to ensure that all of our community has access and the ability to have the most protection for themselves and for one another as possible,” Ho said.

California has also released preliminary results on COVID-19 cases and deaths by race and ethnicity. With 54% of current cases statewide reported, black people, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders were overrepresented, although Latinos were underrepresented, compared to their overall populations. People of Asian descent were slightly overrepresented in deaths, whereas Native Americans were underrepresented in cases and deaths.

White Californians made up about the same number of cases and deaths in proportion to their overall population.

The county also released geographical data on the 1,442 confirmed COVID-19 cases by city, showing San Jose had 958 cases. With an estimated population of more than 1 million people compared to the county’s 1.9 million, per census figures, San Jose was overrepresented in confirmed cases. 

However, officials cautioned that community transmission is believed to be widespread throughout Santa Clara County, and limited testing capacity means case counts represent only a small portion of actual cases within each city.

“With various levels of testing in different communities, the city-level data do not necessarily represent the level of spread in these cities,” said Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody in a statement. “Whether there are three confirmed cases or 100 hundred confirmed cases in any given city, we must behave as if the virus is everywhere, because it is.”

Here are other cases listed across Santa Clara County: 

  • Santa Clara, 54; 
  • Sunnyvale, 65;
  • Milpitas, 43;
  • Cupertino, 17;
  • Mountain View, 30;
  • Palo Alto, 57;
  • Los Altos, 18;
  • Campbell, 26;
  • Los Gatos, 21;
  • South County (including Gilroy and Morgan Hill), 24.

Contact Eduardo Cuevas at eduardomcuevas@gmail.com or follow @eduardomcuevas on Twitter.

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