Here and elsewhere, minorities bear brunt of COVID-19 crisis

The Snohomish Health District reviewed 1,118 cases and found the highest incidence among Hispanics.

EVERETT — The coronavirus crisis has hit Snohomish County’s people of color harder than white residents, data from the local health district suggest.

Case rates among Hispanics and Pacific Islanders were more than double that of white or Asian people, the Snohomish Health District found when epidemiologists reviewed roughly half of some 2,400 cases the district has logged.

Incidence was highest among Hispanic people, with about 207 cases per 100,000 people, and lowest among white people, with around 85 cases per 100,000 people.

Case rates per 100,000 people were as follows for other racial and ethnic groups: about 197 for native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders; 165 for American Indians and Alaska natives; 157 for African Americans and 93 for people with Asian heritage.

The health district’s analysis comes as figures from cities and states across the country have illustrated the pandemic’s disproportionate toll on the health of minorities. And local public health officials are echoing national experts when explaining the disparities, saying they are probably rooted in other societal inequities.

People who are racial minorities are more likely to have jobs that are considered essential, leading to a greater risk of exposure, according to the health district.

Many “essential” jobs don’t offer the same work-from-home flexibility that office jobs do, said Janice Greene, president of the Snohomish County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

“A lot of these so-called essential job classes are low-paying, and they’re without protective equipment,” Greene said, adding that the people of color who often work in those positions “don’t have much of a choice.”

“It’s either they go to work or they don’t get paid; they don’t have a job. It’s a no-win situation,” she said.

Underlying medical problems, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, are also more prevalent among people of color, according to the health district. Those issues can intensify disease and, in some cases, lead to a greater likelihood that someone would be tested for coronavirus.

Research has repeatedly shown that people who are victims of racism and discrimination live with stress that fuels some of those health issues, Greene said. Institutional discrimination within the health care system also compounds those problems, she said.

“There’s underlying conditions to the underlying conditions,” Greene said.

COVID-19 hospitalizations were approximately 50% to 75% higher among Latino people than white or Asian people, Dr. Chris Spitters, the district’s health officer, said during a recent media briefing. Death rates among Latinos, though, did not appear relatively high, according to the health district.

“Among other non-Asian racial minorities, the number of hospitalizations and deaths were too small to draw any firm conclusions, although the observed data showed no suggestion of higher hospitalization or death rates in those groups,” the district’s website says.

Snohomish County’s population is nearly 70% white, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Hispanic or Latino people make up another 10%, and Asian people account for almost 12%. Nearly 4% of the population is black. About 5% is multiracial. The rest consists of relatively small proportions of American Indians, Alaska natives, native Hawaiians and Pacific Islander people.

Jacque Julien, executive director of the local non-profit Communities of Color Coalition, said she wasn’t surprised by the disparities. The health district data adds to a trend of inequities that has long plagued people of color, she said.

“Until we acknowledge that racism is a public health crisis, we’re going to continue to have the same conversation,” Julien said. “The larger question for me is, ‘What are we willing to do about it?’ We know these things exist.”

The health district has translated several bulletins, which include guidance on how to protect yourself from COVID-19 and what to do if you’re exposed, into Spanish and five other languages, said district spokeswoman Kari Bray. The district has posted those materials on its website and shared them with schools, cities, parks, medical facilities and other organizations to distribute, Bray said.

“There is more we would like to do moving forward to ensure critical information is shared far and wide in Snohomish County, and we will continue to work on identifying additional materials and partners in the community who can help with that outreach,” Bray said.

Public health officials in neighboring King County have also found that case rates appear highest among Hispanic and Latino people, as well as native Hawaiians or Pacific islanders. However, Public Health–Seattle & King County only has data for about half of confirmed cases, says a recent report from the agency.

Washington also doesn’t have a clear picture of how COVID-19 is affecting different groups statewide because race and ethnicity data are missing in nearly 40% of all cases, according to the state Department of Health.

“Based on the available data at this time, it does not appear we have the same stark inequities in deaths experienced in other parts of the country,” state Secretary of Health John Wiesman said in a statement this month. “However, we are still working to get race and ethnicity data for a third of the deaths, so we can’t draw firm conclusions quite yet.”

Greene said she hopes the pandemic gives way to honest discussions about why racial and ethnic minorities face barriers that others don’t.

“There’s other conversations that we need to have about the conditions,” she said, “and why it is that people of color are so disproportionately impacted by this virus.”

Rachel Riley: 425-339-3465; Twitter: @rachel_m_riley.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A Mukilteo Speedway sign hangs at an intersection along the road on Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Long live the Speedway! Mukilteo’s main drag won’t be renamed

The public shot down the mayor’s idea to change the name: 77% voted ‘No’ in an online survey, with 95% opposed on Facebook.

Motorcyclist dies in crash on East Marine View Drive in Everett

Around 8 p.m. Tuesday, a motorcycle and a vehicle crashed into each other at the intersection of 11th street and East Marine View Drive.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Darrington in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Motorcyclist dies in crash on Highway 530

Jeremy Doyle, 46, was riding east near Darrington when he crashed into the side of a car that was turning left.

The Marysville School District office on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘Financially insolvent’ Marysville schools to get unprecedented oversight

Superintendent Chris Reykdal will convene a first-of-its-kind Financial Oversight Committee, he wrote in a letter Tuesday.

Woodside Elementary Principal Betty Cobbs on Monday, June 17, 2024 in Bothell, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett’s first Black principal retires after 51 years

In her office, Betty Cobbs kept a black-and-white photo of herself at age 5: “I am right there, with dreams of becoming an educator.”

Junelle Lewis, right, daughter Tamara Grigsby and son Jayden Hill sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” during Monroe’s Juneteenth celebration on Saturday, June 18, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
On Juneteenth: ‘We can always say that there is hope’

The Snohomish County NAACP is co-sponsoring a celebration Saturday near Snohomish, with speakers, music and food.

Susanna Johnson speaks during an interview on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Sheriff: New police pursuit policy under review amid state rollback

New state standards once again allow police to pursue a suspect without probable cause for a crime — and give departments discretion to adjust policy.

Snohomish County Health Department Director Dennis Worsham on Tuesday, June 11, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Long after AIDS crisis peak, LGBTQ+ health care still limited in Everett

A reopened free STI clinic signals some progress. But securing inclusive health services in Snohomish County is an uphill battle, local experts say.

Crave Spokane Valley 2023 (Courtesy of CraveNW Media Relations)
Sold out Spokane food festival coming to Lynnwood

The event Friday night at the Lynnwood Event Center will feature “foods from around the world.” The goal is to make it annual.

Bruce Guthrie outside the Frances Anderson Center, a public park owned by the city of Edmonds. Guthrie was arrested by arrested by Edmonds Police during the Edmonds Arts Festival for soliciting signatures on a petition to get Libertarian presidential candidate Chase Oliver on Washington’s ballot this year. (Photo provided by Bruce Guthrie)
Edmonds state House candidate arrested collecting petition signatures

Bruce Guthrie believes the city violated his First Amendment rights by arresting him at an event in a public park, making him a “political prisoner.”

Amazon delivery vans at a shipping facility in Chatsworth, Calif., on Jan. 12, 2022. The company has big plans to turn its delivery fleet green, but very few of the vehicles are made right now. (Roger Kisby/The New York Times)
To help fund roads, Washington lawmakers eye fee on deliveries

New revenue options are needed as gas tax collections lag behind rising maintenance costs, but “this is not a done deal.”

Everett Herald staff gather and talk in the newsroom after layoff announcements on Wednesday, June 19, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘This breaks my heart’: Roughly half of Everett Herald news staff laid off

A dozen journalists learned their jobs were eliminated Wednesday, in a move new owners Carpenter Media Group said was meant to ensure long-term success of the newspaper.