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Black people, minorities, low-income earners at higher risk for COVID-19 infection

Thursday November 19, 2020

New data released by Region of Waterloo Public Health this week

People wait in line at a new COVID-19 testing facility in Scaborough, Ont. (Paul Smith/CBC)

New local data suggests the COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately impacting Black people, visible minorities, lower income earners and people whose first language is not English or French.

Region of Waterloo Public Health collected data on socio-demographic indicators from more than 680 COVID-19 positive cases between July and October.

Public health officials revealed the findings in the region's committee of the whole meeting on Tuesday.

"The COVD-19 pandemic has unfortunately accentuated existing structural and systemic inequities and these findings underscore the need for a greater collective community response for groups and neighbourhoods disproportionately affected," said Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, the region's acting medical officer of health.


According to the report, many cases were missing data, "which significantly limits the reliability and generalizability of the results." For example, of the 680 cases, about 500 people provided information about their race.

The findings suggest that while Black people accounted for 16.7 per cent of COVID-19 cases, but only 2.9 per cent of the region's population. Visible minorities made up 63.7 per cent of cases in comparison to 19 per cent of the population.

New immigrants, low-income earners in Waterloo region seeing higher rates of COVID-19
Most people who tested positive didn't indicate household income. Among those that did, the largest group — 10.6 per cent — had a household income of less than $29,999.

A large number of cases indicated they spoke Canada's official languages, followed by Arabic, Somali and Punjabi.

The proportion of non-official language speakers is higher than expected when compared to local census data. About 61.8 per cent of people in Waterloo region who tested positive for COVID-19 speak a non-official language but they only make up 23.6 per cent of the population.

Next steps
Public health officials said future data collection will have First Nations representation, which wasn't a demographic question in this report.

They are also working with community leaders to prevent further spread in affected communities.

Officials said they're in the process of implementing a safe voluntary isolation site program for larger families who need the space and support.


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