Finding a positive path forward for communities with the highest rates of COVID-19

Coronavirus Updates

In Utah, and across the country, the numbers show our minority communities are bearing the brunt of this pandemic.

People who identify as Latino or Hispanic make up 14 percent of the population in Utah, but they account for 43 percent of all COVID-19 cases, according to the Utah Department of Health.

As of Tuesday, June 30, 22,217 people had tested positive for the virus in Utah. 9,533 of them were Hispanic or Latino.

For comparison, most of Utah (78 percent) identify as white, but white people accounted for fewer cases with 7,677 positive tests.

“We’re not going to tackle and flatten the curve until we bring interventions that matter to those communities,” said Sen. Luz Escamilla (D-Salt Lake City) to ABC4 News on Tuesday.

Sen. Escamilla and Rep. Angela Romero (D-Salt Lake City) joined ABC4’s Emily Clark for a panel discussion about the underlying causes of the disproportionate number of cases in those communities and how state leaders and policymakers need to address them.

“COVID-19 has put light onto the many disparities we face in this country,” said Sen. Escamilla. “Poverty is a huge issue. Your zip code is determining those hot spots.”

Rep. Romero also pointed to the disparities spotlighted by the pandemic. “We as a legislature have to look at making sure people have access to health insurance. What are we paying our essential workers to make sure they can live in the community that they work in?”

Among the actions taken by the Utah State Legislature, according to Rep. Romero, they were able to obtain $2.5 million in CARES Act funding specifically for diverse communities.

The legislature also extended the state of emergency for Utah during a special session, which allows the state to continue to receive federal funding to fight the pandemic.

“That’s huge,” said Rep. Romero. “Especially when you look at the rates of COVID-19. They’re not going down. They’re going up. As we move forward, we need to make sure we’re protecting the citizens of Utah, and, in order to do that, we need funding.”

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