SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — As coronavirus cases continue to rise in California, the latest data from the state shows significant disparities in cases and deaths in communities of color. 

COVID-19 disproportionately impacts the state’s low-income, Latino, Black, and Pacific Islander communities, as well as essential workers, according to state data on California’s COVID-19 website.

The state’s 15 million plus Latino residents have been among the hardest-hit communities, accounting for 55% of the state’s COVID-19 cases with over 1,000,000 positive cases and 47% of total COVID-19 related deaths with 12,827, state data shows.

“We continue to see a substantial amount of people losing their lives to this pandemic, averaging 476 individuals over the last 7 days and 264 individuals in the last reporting period,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. 

“Just a sober reminder of the deadliness of this disease and how deadly this pandemic remains,” he added.

Courtesy: California Department of Public Health

According to state data, the death rate for Latino residents is 22% higher than the current statewide rate, death rates for Black residents are 16% higher than statewide rates, case rates for Pacific Islanders is 23% higher than statewide rates and case rates for communities with median income is 41% higher than statewide rates. 

In Santa Clara County, similar numbers show communities of color and essential workers among the hardest hit by COVID-19. 

In particular, Latinos account for most of the county’s COVID-19 cases with 51% positive cases countywide while making up 25.8% of the total population. 

“The disparities by county section when the [COVID-19] rates increased so did the disparities by county section and our highest case rates have consistently been in Gilroy followed by East San Jose,” said Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody. “Those disparities are widening as the case rates have accelerated.”

Courtesy: Santa Clara County

Dr. Cody also said the disparities by race and ethnicity have been increasing since late October as the Latino community continues to have the highest rates of COVID-19 cases. 

In an effort to get more residents tested, the county launched a door-to-door initiative in East San Jose last month. 

The county’s Public Health Department teamed up with community organizations and leaders to launch a pilot program to offer free at-home COVID-19 testing to the community’s hard-hit Latino population. 

“We started with this campaign a couple of months back because as you know there’s a lot of cases here in the eastside and because of different factors,” said Olivia Ortiz, promotora, community worker with Mujeres Empresarias Tomando Acción (META).

“One of those is sometimes people don’t have access to get to the testing sites, they don’t drive, maybe there’s a language barrier and older people who can’t get out of their house,” she said.

Ortiz along with a group of 8 other women have been going door-to-door to offer COVID-19 tests to members of the community in some of East San Jose’s heavily impacted neighborhoods.

Ortiz tells KRON4 News the pandemic has only highlighted existing inequities in the community. 

“We’ve kind of figured out what we can do so we can help those people who don’t have access to testing,” said Ortiz. 

“That’s why this program was started hoping to get those people who are not able to go out there to the sites.”

The group of promotoras walk the neighborhoods for hours, knocking on people’s doors, offering free COVID-19 tests with some people more willing than others. 

They say many people have been willing to take a test but on many occasions there have been plenty of people who remain skeptical due to deep mistrust in government. 

Translation: Spanish to English

“The work we are doing is hard on the concept that it is risky for our health, we are risking that,” said Luz Maria Mendoza, promotora, community worker with META. 

“But we know that if we don’t do this job ourselves, who will be? And how are we going to eradicate this virus?”

A recent COVID-19 update for the county shows an additional 1,092 cases and 25 deaths as ICU bed availability for the county has fallen with only 20 ICU beds as of Tuesday. 

Now, the major challenge for the county is to find a way to get its COVID-19 vaccines out to those who need it the most — as distribution has fallen short of county goals. 

Supervisors Cindy Chavez and Joe Simitan has since proposed an emergency ordinance that would require every hospital and clinic in the county to have a written plan and timeline for its vaccine distribution.