There’s no way out of the Purple Tier unless we act like we’re all in this together.
This is Pam Marino, on the health beat for the Weekly. You probably remember how often the phrase “we’re all in this together” was repeated in the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The data proves in one very important way that we were not—and are still not—in it together. Some populations are shouldering the burden of the virus more than others. Like the more than 10,200 Latino residents of Monterey County, out of 13,200 who have tested positive for Covid-19. Or the 86 Latinos who have died, out of 111 residents who have died from the virus in Monterey County.
This week’s cover story describes one family’s loss. Sixty-five-year-old Pedro Molina died from the virus in September. His family tried to convince him not to go to work in the fields, but he said he had to work to pay the rent. They believe he was infected at work.
Maria Elena Manzo, a COPA organizer, heard dozens of variations of the Molinas’ story as she and other organizers placed over 1,600 calls to farmworkers and hospitality employees. Among the challenges facing families: not knowing how to apply for wage replacement or what benefits were available; not knowing how to find temporary housing in order to quarantine or isolate; non-citizen workers who don’t qualify for benefits like unemployment.
Yesterday, as the paper went to the printing press, Assemblymember Robert Rivas, D-Hollister, was welcoming people to a livestream briefing about Covid-19 by the California Latino Legislative Caucus, for which he serves as vice chair. Monterey County is the largest county in his district, and where 91 percent of Covid-19 patients whose ethnicity is reported are Latinos, despite Latinos representing just 61 percent of the population.
The briefing included research by the UC Merced Community and Labor Center that shows the problem is not that immigrants from Mexico and Central America haven’t heard how to social distance as many public health initiatives have assumed as they churn out Spanish-language education campaigns. Research shows immigrant Latinos follow individual health actions at the same rate as everyone else.
The issue has to do with economics more than awareness: Members of this community are are “financially vulnerable and work in environments that are not conducive to public health mandates,” said Ana Maria Padilla, the center’s executive director.
Decades of systemic racism has led to this crisis, added Cástulo de la Rocha, president and CEO of AltaMed, a Southern California health care system representing more than 300,000 patients. “We must be included in decisions that are being discussed about us,” he said.
Today’s cover story is about how we can’t reopen Monterey County’s economy until everyone is included. Not just the leaders of the hospitality and agriculture industries, or government officials, or the health care system—it means including the Molinas and the stories of thousands of families like theirs, who continue to work outside of their homes every day to serve all of us.
A new coalition of voices from a diverse group of representatives is coming together for the first time tomorrow to do just that. It’s being moderated by Dan Baldwin, president and CEO of the Community Foundation for Monterey County. Baldwin told me he fully intends to lead a discussion that includes looking at root causes and long term solutions, not just short-term actions.
For now, Monterey County—and 40 other counties—remain in the most restrictive Purple Tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. And with the state’s mandate to use the Health Equity Metric to ensure that all neighborhoods have a low rate of cases, from the richest to the poorest, we truly are all in this together to find a way out.
-Pam Marino, staff writer, email@example.com