COVID-19 outreach events reach hundreds of needy families Ethnic disparity in positive cases appears to drop

by Leslie Layton
A COVID-19 prevention campaign targeting low-income and minority communities in the region — that public health officials believe has been effective — is reaching hundreds of families as it winds down for this calendar year.

photo by Kate Sheehy/Semillas
Reyna Nolta from the Hispanic Resource Council at the COVID-19 prevention event in Orland on Saturday.

Spearheaded by the Hispanic Resource Council of Northern California, staffers from a host of social service agencies and Butte County Public Health have distributed more than 2,000 masks, more than 1,000 bottles of hand sanitizer, information packets and educational materials translated into Spanish at events throughout the North State. The latest events, held Oct. 17 in Orland, Chico and Oroville, were the last big projects in the 2020 prevention campaign although other facets of the campaign will continue.

The Oct. 17 Orland event featured a food giveaway and the participation of Mexican consulate officials. Representatives of the consulate explained the importance of prevention and recounted stories of COVID patients who have suffered serious neurological effects from the illness, said Reyna Nolta, a member of the Hispanic Resource Council.

People had already lined up for PPE (personal protective equipment) and emergency food supplies when the Orland event began at 3 p.m.

photo courtesy of Semillas
Kate Sheehy and Joana Castañeda of the nonprofit Semillas gave out 90 bags of emergency food supplies at the Orland event Saturday.

Nolta said the people who showed up for all the events “really needed” the supplies, and she was startled by the large number of elderly people in need of assistance.

“They’re hurting,” Nolta said of the families who attended the events. “They were grateful, people kept saying, ‘thank you, thank you.’ They were really appreciative.”

At the Oroville event, held at the African American Family & Cultural Center, several families often shared a single car in order to attend. “That tells me they don’t have transportation, maybe they don’t have money for gas,” Nolta said.

Donations came from Enloe Medical Center, the League of Women Voters and other organizations; the nonprofit Semillas has been using GoFundMe to raise money to buy pinto beans, canned tomatoes, cooking oil and other food supplies.

Danette York, Butte County public health director, said today she believes the prevention campaign has helped stem the spread of the virus, although she still has no definitive data to prove that.

A race and ethnic breakdown of Butte County’s COVID-19 cases shows only 13 percent of people testing positive identified as Hispanic for the 30-day period ending Sept. 24. But there’s a caveat — the data also shows that in 46% of the cases, ethnicity was reported as “unknown.” More data will be available within a couple of weeks, York said.

Butte County Public Health says race and ethnicity data have often been “missing from provider and lab reports.”

ChicoSol reported in early July that in about 41 percent of the county’s cases, people identified as Hispanic or Latino. That story moved Nolta and other members of the Hispanic Resource Council to launch a bilingual outreach campaign with the support of public health, Northern Valley Catholic Social Services, the North Valley Community Foundation and other government agencies, foundations and nonprofits.

“We are working hard to do some outreach to decrease the disparity, and we believe we’re having an effect, but don’t know [yet] if it’s that big,” York said.

There have been 51 COVID-related deaths in Butte County according to data released today by public health. Almost 69 percent of the 3,002 cases thus far have come from Chico.

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