When COVID first hit, the disease had a disproportionate impact on communities of color, but here in California, some of the trends changed. Data from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) shows how the disparities of COVID-related deaths in the Latino community have significantly narrowed.
In January 2021, the monthly death rate for Latinos over 18 in California was 55 per 100,000 — the highest of any racial and ethnic group, according to the PPIC.
By June 2022, that disparity was gone. The monthly COVID death rate for Latinos in California has fallen to about 1 per 100,000 below the death rate for White Californians, which is about 2.5. The PPIC attributes the closing of that gap, in large part, to the work of community advocates who helped boost vaccination rates.
"The success of vaccination campaigns, especially in Latino communities, has clearly paid dividends," The PPIC said in a summary of research findings.
One advocate who put boots on the ground in San Diego agrees.
"I think we succeed in all of this, but it's still a challenge," said Beatriz Nuñez, a certified community healthcare worker. "We don’t just have one, two vaccines, we have to [promote] the booster and people ask why."
Nuñez and other community healthcare workers, known affectionately as “promotoras” in Spanish, took a grassroots approach to improving access to COVID-19 vaccines, tests, healthcare and internet in San Diego's Hispanic neighborhoods. Nuñez worked with Casa Familiar to ensure families get the resources they needed.
"When my people ask for something, I start helping," Nuñez said.
The latest vaccination rate, according to the California Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is 62.1% for Hispanics 18 to 49 years old. For Latinos who are 50 and over, the rates are in the 70% range.