The San Jose heads of state and government unanimously accepted 30 recommendations from the Santa Clara County’s Health and Equity Task Force dated September 1 to address the growing health disparities in the time of COVID-19.
Recommendations include translating emergency information, tracing contacts, expanding rent relief, distributing groceries, and adding additional COVID-19 testing sites.
Councilor Magdalena Carrasco said more than 170 cases had been reported in Santa Clara County as of August 31, but many residents still do not know where to get the services they need.
“We find that there is still a lot of fear in our community,” said Carrasco. “Early on, the community didn’t know where to get tests, so we’re still committed to clear, consistent, and actionable messages.”
Since May, the task force, led by Carrasco and member of the State Assembly Kansen Chu, has been meeting with local residents, health clinics, nonprofit organizations and district leaders to better understand health inequalities during the pandemic, especially among people of color.
Carrasco says 20 percent of Santa Clara County’s Latinos lack medical care.
“The Latino community is now facing an infection rate twice that of the general population,” Carrasco said on Aug. 26 when she proposed the recommendations. “We must continue to deploy the appropriate resources to meet the needs of our communities, which are facing not only the disproportionate health effects of the virus, but also the devastating economic impact.”
Latinos make up 25.8 of the population in Santa Clara County, but account for 33 percent of all coronavirus deaths and nearly 54 percent of all infections. Whites make up 32 percent of the population but only account for 30 percent of coronavirus deaths in the region, according to an Aug. 20 memo by Carrasco.
The task force aims to guide individuals to testing, hygiene products, shelter, and meals to minimize health inequalities. Carrasco said the city needs to go beyond basic food supplies and accommodate different food needs. She recently teamed up with Veggielution, a community farm in East San Jose, to provide culturally appropriate meals to residents.
Carrasco also called for increased protection for workers, including sick leave, safer environments and housing, if they test positive for COVID-19.
“Many workers are afraid of being fired if they report security breaches,” said Carrasco.
The city will combine local efforts with social media and phone connections to disseminate information to workers so that individuals can learn about their rights.
Councilor Sylvia Arenas said moving forward with the task force’s recommendations was an opportunity for the council to end its contribution to contributing to structural racism.
“Can we do more? Absolutely, because future generations will look back and see what kind of politics will lead to all that the future holds for all of us and for our children, “said Arenas on August 26.” They will either say we have these inequalities or we created some of these inequalities or we continued the cycle of inequalities. “
Michele Lew, CEO of the Health Trust, a stock and health organization in Silicon Valley, thanked Carrasco for her leadership.
“Since the task force began, we’ve seen noticeable improvements in testing and contact tracing, particularly in public relations. But work is only just beginning, ”said Lew. “We are ready to work with you to ensure that we reach and serve the people of our hardest-hit neighborhoods.”
Contact Carly Wipf at [email protected] or follow @CarlyChristineW on Twitter.