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Latino workers bear brunt of second wave of COVID-19 in ritzy Marin County

August 10, 2020

Los Angeles Times article by: Rachel Scheier 

Low-income communities of color — especially Latinos — are increasingly bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic in California, where spreading infections among poor service workers living in crowded conditions has highlighted widening racial and economic inequities. These disparities are particularly stark in idyllic Marin, where a surge of new cases concentrated in one crowded Latin American neighborhood has helped land the county on the state’s pandemic watchlist.

The Canal, named for the waterway on its northern border that was once San Rafael’s commercial waterfront, is a flat, densely populated district in a suburb famous for its wooded hillside hamlets and multimillion-dollar vistas. The Canal’s 2½ square miles are dotted by auto shops, scruffy palm trees and rows of low-slung apartment buildings occupied by immigrants from countries such as Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador. An influx of young Latinos has nearly tripled the neighborhood’s population since the 1990s.

Willis said officials are working with Canal Alliance, a neighborhood group, to provide support to residents who contract the virus — in the form of cash and hotel rooms to isolate the infected. The county is recruiting bilingual contact tracers from the Latino community.

In light of these disparities, it’s not surprising that people like Calderon are falling through the cracks, said Omar Carrera, Canal Alliance’s chief executive.

Jennifer Tores, a lifelong resident of the Canal in Marin County, arrived at the local COVID-19 testing site 8 a.m. to get in line. The neighborhood is one of the most heavily tested communities in the state, say health officials, who are struggling to control the spread of the virus.  (Rachel Scheier / California Healthline)

“These people were in survival mode before COVID-19,” Carrera said on a recent afternoon, standing before a mural that adorns the group’s headquarters. People had been lining up since 7 a.m. for free coronavirus testing that began at 1 p.m. Health officials are scrambling to keep pace with demand for tests as infections have surged and employers such as gas stations and grocery stores have started requiring workers to be tested regularly.

An average of 20% of Canal tests are coming back positive. On some days, the positivity rate has been as high as 40%, said Willis. With many of the infected showing few or no symptoms, the virus has raced through this relatively young community.

Read the full article on Los Angeles Times’ website

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