By Julie Galdo:
Hispanics are six times more likely to get sick from coronavirus in Fairfax County than non-Hispanic whites, according to data from the Fairfax County Health Department.
It has been widely reported that COVID-19 is having a disproportionate impact on ethnic minorities in many parts of our country and the world. But the stark truth is we have an under-reported problem right here in Fairfax County.
As of the end of April, 51.5% of reported cases were people of Hispanic origin — more than three times their 16.8% percent of the population.Meanwhile, non-Hispanic whites comprise 52.1% of the population but account for only 24.9% of COVID-19 cases.
The reasons for the inequities of ethnic minorities are many. According to the CDC they include living conditions, work circumstances, underlying health conditions, and lower access to care. Poverty, stigma and systematic inequalities underpin it all.
In Fairfax, these are not new problems. In 2017, the Urban Institute published a report, Racial Inequities in Fairfax County, 2011-2015 outlining disparities in educational attainment, income, employment, homeownership and mobility.
Could this be a moment in time when real change could happen, when these problems could be addressed?
Many Democrats look at the suffering and upheaval caused by COVID-19 and ask if this might spark political will for the societal changes we have long sought: universal access to healthcare, a fair minimum wage, a humane and realistic immigration policy, jobs programs, childcare, more equitable access to post-secondary training and education, and help for families and troubled youth.
While many of these policy changes will ultimately happen at the federal and state levels, this may also be a time when Democrats in Fairfax County should declare the need for action to create equity for Hispanics in our county. Perhaps this is a time for ownership of the challenges and for a vision of what could be.
Beyond being the right thing to do, we can look at this from a self-interested perspective. Hispanics are critical to the future of our party. Aggressive outreach to Hispanics during the 2018 campaign was smart. But to earn their ongoing support, we need to acknowledge the breadth of the problems they face, now exposed so brutally by COVID-19. We know what the challenges are. We have immense talent, rich diversity and assets to build on. Let’s get moving.
Photo: In diverse Fairfax County, symbolized by this lineup of public school kids, Hispanics are bearing the brunt of coronavirus infections, with more than half the total. Source: Fairfax County Public Schools
Julia Hunter Galdo is retired from the American Institutes for Research where she was Managing Director for Health Communication. She is a member of the Providence District Democratic Committee and Virginia Democracy Forward.
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