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COVID-19 impacting Utah’s minority communities disproportionately

413 new COVID-19 cases, 7 more deaths reported Wednesday in Utah

April Medina holds her nose after being tested for COVID-19 in West Valley City on Wednesday, July 15, 2020.
April Medina holds her nose after being tested for COVID-19 in West Valley City on Wednesday, July 15, 2020.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s Hispanic and Latino communities have been disproportionately hit by the novel coronavirus.

The issue of impact on minorities arose as the Utah Department of Health reported an increase of 413 cases of COVID-19 in Utah on Wednesday, bringing the total number of infections statewide since mid-March to 30,891.

An additional seven people have died of the disease, bringing the state’s death toll to 233.

Not only are higher numbers of people in the minority communities getting infected, but their homes and businesses are being impacted, as well.

“A lot of individuals in these communities are considered essential workers and have not been able to stay home,” said Dr. Daniel Mendoza, an assistant research professor at the University of Utah, who spoke during a Spanish language public briefing on COVID-19 on Wednesday. He said Hispanics and Latinos in Utah have also had trouble getting access to testing, as many can’t take time off work.

The Utah Department of Health reports that while Hispanics and Latinos make up just 14.2% of the state’s population, they account for more than 40% of the total cases of COVID-19 in Utah. More than 12,350 cases have been reported among Hispanics and Latinos — the highest infection rate in the state.

The highest death rate, however, falls among people in Utah with Hawaiian and/or Pacific Islander backgrounds, according to the health department. Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders make up 1.6% of Utah’s population, but account for 3.9% of all cases and 5% of all deaths.

Clarissa Ewoldt, 8, reacts as she is tested for COVID-19 in West Valley City on Wednesday, July 15, 2020.
Clarissa Ewoldt, 8, reacts as she is tested for COVID-19 in West Valley City on Wednesday, July 15, 2020.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

At least 14 registered Mexicans have died in Utah from COVID-19, said Consul José Vicente Borjón, of the Mexican Consulate of Salt Lake City. He said the office is awaiting humanitarian visas to be able to send those people home to Mexico for burial.

Frank Trivino, with the Utah Department of Workforce Services, laid out a number of federal, state and local programs that are working to address inequality across ethnicities, particularly when it comes to COVID-19. He said unemployment, housing and food assistance is available, and some programs provide help for undocumented workers living in Utah.

His office, as well as the consulate, are open and helping people deal with the effects the pandemic has thrown at them.

“Our population is affected on a daily basis with financial issues, including discrimination at work,” said Borjón.

He said the health department is working to take testing to populations most affected, where widespread outbreaks are happening among communities of minorities. Mobile testing has been carried out recently in Logan and in Wendover, where there is still unmet need, Borjón said.

“We are worried and concerned,” he said. “It’s an important time in our lives, it’s hard to know how as a consulate, as a parent, as a community to make sure everything is done for the welfare and physical welfare of our families and our children.”

In its daily update, the health department reported that 432,080 people have been tested throughout Utah so far, and that 1,913 people in Utah have been hospitalized with COVID-19 during the course of the pandemic.

There are currently 204 people hospitalized across the state, including 83 being treated in intensive care units, occupying about 65% of all available ICU beds.

The seven-day average for positive tests in Utah is 589 per day, with a seven-day positivity rate of 10.1%, the health department reported Wednesday. Gov. Gary Herbert has challenged Utahns to decrease that number to fewer than 500 per day by Aug. 1.

An additional seven Utahns have died with COVID-19, including a Davis County man, between age 65 and 84, who was hospitalized; two Salt Lake County men, one between 65 and 84 who was not hospitalized at the time of his death, and the other between 45 and 64, who was hospitalized; a San Juan County woman older than 85 who was living in a long-term health care facility when she passed; a Utah County woman between 65 and 84 who was not hospitalized; and two Weber County men, one between age 45 and 64 who was not hospitalized, and one between 65 and 84 who was hospitalized at the time of his death.

The health department noted on Wednesday that its daily account of COVID-19 fatalities includes those that may have occurred within two to seven days prior to the report, or even longer if the resident died outside of Utah.

The latest breakdown of Utah cases, hospitalizations and deaths by health district:

  • Salt Lake County, 15,306; 1,031 hospitalized; 132 deaths.
  • Utah County, 5,637; 282 hospitalized; 30 deaths.
  • Southwest Utah, 2,158; 125 hospitalized; 19 deaths.
  • Davis County, 2,016; 120 hospitalized; 7 deaths.
  • Bear River (Box Elder, Cache, Rich), 1,811; 72 hospitalized; 4 deaths.
  • Weber-Morgan, 1,631; 111 hospitalized; 18 deaths.
  • Summit County, 597; 49 hospitalized; 1 death.
  • San Juan County, 489; 62 hospitalized; 18 deaths.
  • Wasatch County, 465; 20 hospitalized; 4 deaths.
  • Tooele County, 370; 17 hospitalized; 0 deaths.
  • Central Utah, 278; 17 hospitalized; 0 deaths.
  • TriCounty (Uinta Basin), 79; 6 hospitalized; 0 deaths.
  • Southeast Utah, 54; 1 hospitalized; 0 deaths.