New data reveals Latinos hit harder than whites by coronavirus in Sonoma County
Latino residents in Sonoma County are 4½ times more likely than white residents to contract the coronavirus, a finding that mirrors troubling state and national statistics that shows Latinos and other minorities are being disproportionately ravaged by the disease.
According to county public health data released Tuesday, 59% of people who have tested positive for the disease caused by the virus have identified as Latino or Hispanic, though they represent just over 27% of the population.
White residents make up nearly 65% of the population but only 33% of COVID-19 cases, the data shows.
Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase said the health department has just begun to investigate reasons why local Latinos are disproportionately contracting the virus. The county is setting up two testing sites this weekend to boost its detection of the virus within Latino communities.
They aim to test 250 people over the weekend, she said.
“We’re going to look into it and analyze the data and go and find the answers to those questions,” Mase said.
The finding reflects a national trend showing the new virus is disproportionately impacting minorities, both in terms of the number of confirmed cases and deaths, said Dr. Toni Ramirez, a Santa Rosa family doctor.
Ramirez, who co-founded the local health care advocacy group Health Professionals for Equality and Community Empowerment, called HPEACE, said she and other medical providers are finding “clusters” of COVID-19 cases among large households where multiple Latino families reside because of the high cost of housing.
“We have multiple families in one house sharing one bathroom, one kitchen, and that makes it that much more likely for others in the household to get infected,” she said. “This pandemic is really just unveiling the systemic social and economic inequities in the country and in Sonoma County.”
Latinos make up just under 40% of the population in California but they represent about half of all cases of the coronavirus and nearly 78% of cases among children 17 and younger, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Latino residents between 35 and 49 years old represent a startling 71.5% of deaths for that age bracket, although overall for all ages they are just 35.8% of deaths statewide.
Tuesday, the county reported 21 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 333.
Of those, 145 are Latino or Hispanic, 82 are white, 13 are Asian or Pacific Islander, seven are designated as other (non-Hispanic) and 86 people declined to provide race or ethnicity information.
The share of confirmed cases for Asian and Pacific Islander residents is the same as the group’s share of the overall population, about 5%.
The demographic data, released by the county for the first time Tuesday, indicates Latinos are 4½ times more likely to contract the virus than white residents. That likelihood is calculated based on the case rates per 100,000 people, which are about 107 for Latinos and 23 for whites.
County health department spokesman Rohish Lal said epidemiologists expect about 25% of people surveyed to decline to provide their race or ethnicity. Lal said the lack of information on race or ethnicity for 86 people with COVID-19 could mean the actual proportion of Latinos with the illness is different, but the health department expects the disparity would not disappear and could be more significant.