EAST WENATCHEE — The Chelan-Douglas Health District on Monday resumed reporting coronavirus test results broken down by patient ethnicity.
The up-to-date case counts posted to the health district’s website now number 219 Hispanic, 48 non-Hispanic and two unknown. Hispanics represent 81.4% of positive COVID-19 cases, despite accounting for around 30% of the area’s total population.
The health district stopped releasing a breakdown of cases by ethnicity on April 28 after it said it received concerns from members of the local Latino community, Administrator Barry Kling said Friday.
The Wenatchee World published a story on the decision Friday. The response to the story on social media persuaded the district that the data was important for understanding the ethnic disparity presented by the cases, spokeswoman Veronica Farias said Monday.
“Even in the article, there was a community leader who was talking about how important it was to have this information out there,” she said. “We talked about it internally and we agreed that the positive feedback it was receiving, it would outweigh the complaints that were originally received that made us make the decision to take it down in the first place.”
Karina Vega-Villa, a program director and faculty member at Wenatchee Valley College, and Teresa Bendito, who is leading the Latino Communications Network with Our Valley Our Future, weighed in on the need to make the data public in the original article.
“It is not a matter of blaming anybody, it’s a matter of addressing the fact that the population of Latinos here in Wenatchee are being affected at a higher rate. It’s not about pointing fingers, it’s about addressing these issues,” Vega-Villa said Friday.
Farias and Kling declined to say who originally contacted the district with concerns about the data being available publicly.
“My understanding is they were concerned some people could misinterpret that as though the Hispanic community was responsible for the outbreak or the source of the outbreak, or in some sense they could be blamed,” Kling said Friday.
Latinos have accounted for a disproportionately high rate of cases in North Central Washington since the ethnicity data was first released on April 14. At that time they accounted for 54% of the reported cases.
When the health district stopped reporting the data on April 28, they accounted for 75% of the cases. On Monday that disparity grew to 81.4% of total cases.
Testing in the area has been sporadic and directly dependent on the supplies available. For weeks, only symptomatic people were eligible for a test.
One of the few wide-scale tests so far was conducted April 21, when 36 Stemilt Ag Services workers were reported to have the virus. All of the new cases added to the health district’s website that day were reported as Hispanic. But even without those tests, the numbers would skew more than 3-1 Hispanic to non-Hispanic.
The health district is participating in several outreach efforts for the Latino and Spanish-speaking community, Farias said. One effort is a partnership with the North Central Accountable Community of Health to provide information in Spanish.
“We’re just really trying to improve our messaging to the Hispanic community,” Farias said. “We take the high rate very seriously and we want to make sure we’re doing what we can to get the word out there and make sure everybody is safe.”