At Washington State University (WSU), it will be long remembered as Black Monday.
Monday, Oct. 18, the day state employees were required to meet a state mandate to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. It was also the day that football coach Nick Rolovich and four assistants were terminated for failing to meet the mandate. It was a painful day, not only for the coaches who lost their jobs, but also for the players, university administrators, students, and alumni.
A couple of retired guys that spent their careers making television dish on the good, bad, and ridiculousness of life for People of Color in America. They tear apart the news of the week, explore the complexities of race, and talk to people far more interesting than they will ever be.
Seattle and King County officials are proudly touting a 70% COVID-19 vaccination rate. But Dr. Leo Morales says there is more work to be done, especially among Latinos and other communities of color where the vaccination rate hovers at 50%. Dr. Morales joins the Chino Y Chicano to talk about the pandemic’s impact on health disparities as well as “Adios COVID,” a project aimed at helping Latinos get vaccinated. Assistant dean of the University of Washington School of Medicine, Dr. Morales is also a professor and the co-director of the Latino Center for Health at the University of Washington.
The coronavirus pandemic has exposed racial health disparities, specifically impacting African American and Latino communities. Coronavirus hit at disproportionate rates for communities of color. On May 9, 2021 the rate of cases for COVID-19, for instance, in white communities was 2,754 per 100,000, while Latino communities had a rate of 9,992 per 100,000 people. In King County, 62% of white communities are vaccinated while only 46% of the Latino population have been vaccinated. Latino Americans are four times more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19 than their white counterparts. Though jarring, this is not surprising.
Though COVID-19 disease activity remains high, and there are suggestions the pandemic curve might be starting to flatten, King County remains in Phase 3 of the Gov. Inslee’s reopening plan. And in South and Southeast King County there are concerns that certain communities of color have received the least vaccine coverage.
After the COVID-19 pandemic hit, however, Wallace expanded his current job as director of external relations for HVTNto include the COVID-19 Prevention Network (CoVPN), which coordinated all major COVID-19 vaccine efficacy trials except Pfizer-BioNTech’s.
Wallace smiles, and says, “My mother and my team accuse me of … being a triplet; because they’re like ‘We don’t understand how one person can do all that you do and still … absorb as much information’ as I do, and have the mastery of having to categorize it and spit it back out without much concern or draw there.”
Even as Washingtonians mark their calendars for April 15, the day everyone aged 16 and older in the state will be able to get vaccinated, the viral storm clouds on the horizon are growing darker.
In the last week, the average daily COVID case rate in King County alone has risen to 250 new cases per day, Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC) Public Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin told listeners in an April 2 press conference. This represents a 26% increase from the week before, and an 86% overall increase from the beginning of this most recent rise, which likely represents a fourth wave beginning, Duchin said.
Every day for the past year, I’ve heard from families across Washington State about just how hard this year has been. Single moms who were struggling to find quality affordable child care for their kids because the pandemic has closed down so many child care centers. Hardworking parents who were laid off because of COVID-19 and are unable to make ends meet. Kids who struggled to adapt to online learning. Grandparents raising their grandchildren who were afraid to send them to school for fear of bringing home the virus. When I hear from communities of color, I hear about how long-standing inequities made the effects of the pandemic even more dire.
Every day for the past year, I’ve heard these stories, and I’ve taken them with me back to the other Washington to fight for all our state’s families and make sure no community gets left behind. After a year of Republicans saying “no” to the kind of bold relief families in Washington State have been demanding for months — and after voters in Washington State and across the country made their voices heard in November and January — Democrats have finally passed a bill that begins to acknowledge the scope and scale of the crisis Washington State families have been facing.
A year into a pandemic that has killed half a million people in the U.S. and magnified deep inequities in the country’s core institutions, it’s extraordinary that Vicky Navarro and Thyda Ros aren’t more exhausted.
A typical week might find Navarro crisscrossing King County with boxes of face masks and public health pamphlets in three different languages — English, Spanish, and Tagalog — while Ros plans a socially distanced dinner dropoff of deep-fried fish and green mango salad to a Khmer community elder. Then it’s off to the next webinar, the next worried call from a neighbor, the next social media rumor to bat down.
Homebound elders who have no way to access community or mass COVID-19 vaccination sites will be able to get vaccinated in their own homes in the coming weeks.
In a press conference on March 12, Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC) Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin said that plans are in the works to create mobile vaccination teams that will be able to visit homebound elders who live in King County.
Though cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations are down significantly from where they were before the third wave of virus activity in autumn 2020, King County isn’t out of the woods yet. In a virtual press conference on March 5, Public Health – Seattle & King County’s Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin said that the case rate and hospitalization rate have plateaued, and that at least one viral variant, B.1.1.7, remains poised to become the predominant variant in the state and throughout the country, based on expert projections.