State data regarding confirmed cases of the new coronavirus shows Hispanic populations continue to be hit hardest, including in Yakima County.
Staff with the Washington State Department of Health said Thursday that data related to the COVID-19 pandemic shows a continued disproportionate impact on the state’s minority populations.
Paj Nandi, the department’s director of community relations and equity, said 44% of confirmed cases and 29% of hospitalizations are Hispanics, who comprise 13% of the state’s population, according to the department’s data.
Hispanic people also make up about 12 % of the total number of deaths statewide, Nandi said.
The Yakima Health District’s most recent data reported that about 50% of confirmed cases are people who identified as Hispanic, compared to about 19% of confirmed cases among whites and about 4% of confirmed cases among American Indian and Alaskan Native people.
Hispanic people make up about 49% of Yakima County’s population, according to the district’s data.
Amy Reynolds, who works with case investigation and contact tracing for the state Department of Health, said the department collaborates with local health districts on messaging and public education efforts.
But the department also allows local health districts to conduct outreach efforts in the ways they feel will resonate most with their communities, Reynolds said.
The state Department of Health already has started working with the Yakima Health District on a three-month media campaign to reach Hispanic communities, as well as to aid with on-the-ground efforts, DOH staff said Thursday during a conference call hosted by the Latino Civic Alliance and the Commission on Hispanic Affairs.
A focus of that media push includes educating people about the importance of wearing masks while in public to slow the spread of the new coronavirus as well as how to wear a mask properly.
The health district and local nonprofits have been attempting to address issues of equity, including whether people in Spanish-speaking communities have equal access to information about COVID-19 as well as masks.
Several groups in Yakima, including the Latino Community Fund, also have been engaged in public education and outreach efforts.
Cristina Ortega, community organizer for civic engagement and advocacy for that organization, said the group has distributed more than 600 masks to essential workers and others in June alone.
The organization also continues to educate Spanish-speaking communities about COVID-19 and precautions they should take, Ortega said.