Board of Supervisors listens to presentation about disproportionate impact
The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors received a COVID-19 update that included a demographic breakdown of infection rates in the county, which indicated that Latino and Hispanic people are disproportionately impacted by the virus.
On Tuesday, Santa Barbara Public Health Department senior epidemiologist Joy Kane presented data that was compiled by interviewing 443 individuals in Santa Barbara County who were confirmed COVID-19 cases. They were interviewed through May 8, and the cases were divided by race and ethnicity.
The data revealed that 68.1 percent of COVID-19 cases in Santa Barbara County were Latino or Hispanic, an overrepresentation considering they make up 47.9 percent of the county’s population, according to the health department.
The second highest demographic was whites, who make up 42.8 percent of the county’s population and are underrepresented in coronavirus cases at 26.5 percent, according to the department.
Of the 89 coronavirus cases in the county who were hospitalized, 56.2 were Latino or Hispanic. This demographic also made up 71 percent of the seven COVID-19 deaths recorded during the period when the data was gathered.
According to the presentation, Latinos and Hispanics were also overrepresented among COVID-19 cases in Santa Maria, which along with the rest of the North County has experienced far higher rates of infection than the South County. According to the data, 90 percent of the 134 cases falling in the geographic information system region of Santa Maria are Latino or Hispanic.
In other business, the board voted during its Tuesday meeting to adopt a resolution recognizing June 19 as Juneteenth in Santa Barbara County, commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S. on that date in 1865. The resolution passed with four yes votes and an abstention from Second District supervisor and board vice chair Peter Adam.
Fourth District supervisor Das Williams, one of the drafters of the resolution, said recognizing Juneteenth is “fitting for the historical moment we are in right now.” He remarked that Juneteenth commemorates the definitive end of slavery rather than just the announcement of it, and said a distinction between announcing the end of something to fully realizing said announcement can be applied to discrimination today.
“It reminds us that we can announce something like the end of discrimination or the end of certain forms of state-sponsored discrimination, but that it often takes years to make that into a reality,” he said.
Mr. Adam abstained from voting despite voicing support for the resolution line, which declared June 19 as Juneteenth in the county and encouraged residents to “use this time to learn about the legacy of slavery and stand up for racial justice in our community.” The vice chair took issue with the resolution’s “whereas” clauses, which he criticized as having “divisive” and “inflammatory” language. He also said that the “whereas” clauses were written as “conclusions presented as facts” rather than actual statements of fact that support the action called for in the resolution.
“If we are to make any real progress on these issues, we must first dial back the rhetoric and look for the common ground we share as the jumping off point for making real progress on these difficult issues,” he said.
In other business, the board received a RISE (Reopening in Safe Environment) update on economic recovery. As of June 12, 2,645 businesses in the county have sent submittals to the county’s self-certification process for reopening. Dine-in restaurants are the leading industry sector that has reopened, with 761 reopened, followed by retail stores with 512 reopened.