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A disparity in health: How COVID is disproportionately affecting Humboldt’s Latinx community

Across the state of California, COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting racial and ethnic minorities, and Humboldt County is no exception. In fact, despite only making up 12.1 percent of Humboldt’s population, Latinos account for about 18 percent of COVID cases as of Sep. 11, 2020. 

Reasons for health disparities

There are many reasons why Latinos and other minority groups are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has identified discrimination, access to health care, occupation, education, income and wealth gaps, and housing to be a few of the primary reasons. 

According to the CDC’s website, “long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put many people from racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19.” 

“I think we’re not very good
at getting really good messaging out to people
and in the right language
at the right time
and in the right venues,”

Dr. Teresa Francovich,
former health officer for Humboldt county

In a town hall meeting that took place last month on Monday the 31, Dr.Teresa Francovich, the former health officer for Humboldt county, spoke directly about some of these reasons. Regarding occupation, Dr.Francovich said that she understands that many Latinos have more than one job which increases their chances of being exposed to COVID-19. 

Dr.Francovich also said that housing might pose an extra risk to Latinos because many of them tend to live with extended family which makes taking preventative measures even more difficult. In addition to these concerns, Dr.Francovich also brought up an information deficit. 

“I think we’re not very good at getting really good messaging out to people and in the right language at the right time and in the right venues,” Dr.Francovich said at the virtual town hall. 

Spanish town hall meeting

Anthony Contreras, one of the people in attendance at the virtual town hall, agreed and said that as a member of the Latino community here in Humboldt, he hasn’t heard or seen any outreach from the county health department to the Spanish-speaking community.

“Any news or anything is word of mouth, and I don’t think that’s sufficient,” Contreras said at the virtual town hall. 

The virtual town hall meeting was an attempt to change this, as it was advertised as a Spanish town hall meeting. 

Although there was interpretation available, many of the attendees expressed that there were technical difficulties with the interpretation. Multiple attendees also said that their questions in Spanish went unanswered. One commenter even said that the meeting wasn’t accessible to the people it was trying to serve. 

Information about testing

If you would like to get tested for COVID-19, you can go to the county’s website to register for a test through OptumServe or call 888-634-1123. 

There is no cost but if you have health insurance, OptumServe will attempt to bill your insurance. OptumServe’s testing site is located at Redwood Acres in Eureka, transportation to the testing site is available for people experiencing homelessness. 

For any COVID related questions, you can call the county’s Joint Information Center at 707-441-5000, the call center is usually staffed by at least one Spanish speaker.

*Editor’s Note: At the time this story was printed, the percentage of Latino COVID cases in Humboldt County was about 20 percent.

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