As the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, data about its impact on communities throughout California has shown disproportionate impacts for different races. And in some cases, it’s a lack of data that’s revealing.
During a CapRadio-hosted Facebook Live event Thursday, UC Berkeley Professor Cristina Mora, co-director of the Institute of Governmental Studies, said a study of how more than 8,000 Californians were experiencing the pandemic found a vast divide between Latino and Black residents on one side, and whites on the other.
“In many ways it’s race and politics that is really shaping the way Californians are experiencing this,” she said. “That said, race is still incredibly much more important here.”
Mora said even California supporters of President Trump who are Latino and Black show more concern about COVID-19 than Trump supporters who are white.
She said the data shows that not only do Black and Latino Californians perceive COVID-19 as a greater threat to their health, but also that they are much more likely to contract the virus.
She said the findings coincide with structural factors we see by race. For example, Latino and Black residents report they are less able to do their work safely from home, they are represented overwhelmingly as essential workers, and they are much more likely to say that their job involves constant contact with others.
“They don’t have the luxury of being safe,” she said.
While ongoing data — including the findings of a CapRadio/Valley Vision poll — continues to show that residents experience the pandemic differently depending on their race, some groups have largely been left out of recent studies.
Virginia Hedrick, executive director of the California Consortium for Urban Indian Health, said while COVID-19 is impacting American Indians and Alaskan Natives, they are not represented in data sets.
“When you’re not a part of the conversation, when you’re not a bar on the chart, then there’s no money dedicated to addressing your community,” she said.
She said despite the lack of representation in COVID-19 studies, Native American communities are also battling the virus.
“We’re seeing it in our dance circles, on reservation and off-reservation, in urban settings and rural settings, but we’re not seeing it in media, we’re not seeing it in state and government reporting, because the data just simply doesn’t exist or no one’s doing that deep dive to do justice to California’s first people,” she said.
She said there are barriers to health care and testing unique to Native communities, and that public messaging about the virus has mainly targeted white, middle class families — overlooking cultural nuances. Little tweaks of language, she said, would better serve Native American families.
The Facebook Live event also featured Crossings TV President Daniel Sakaya and Earth Mama Healing Founder RoLanda Wilkins. You can hear from them and more from the other speakers in the video at the top of the page.
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