SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—The Covid-19 pandemic has had a disparate impact on communities nationwide, with Latinx and Black communities experiencing greater impacts than white ones.
That is according to a report heard Tuesday by the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors.
The report, presented by Health Services Agency Director Mimi Hall and labor economist Teresa Ghilarducci, shows that the pandemic affected numerous aspects of life, from health to education.
“That is the overarching story of this economic recovery,” Ghilarducci said. “It’s been very unequal.”
A sister of Santa Cruz County Deputy Health Officer Dr. David Ghilarducci, Professor Teresa Ghilarducci is a nationally recognized expert in labor, aging and retirement security. She serves as the Bernard and Irene Schwartz Chair of Economic Policy Analysis at The New School for Social Research. She has been a professor at The New School in New York since 2008.
While the pandemic kept all students at home to engage in distance learning, she said, higher-income, “well-resourced” parents could more easily make up for the learning loss while low-income families languished.
“This is the kind of inequality that lasts a long time,” she said. “Were going to have to really rebuild our infrastructure for our human capital losses.”
While the health impacts of the pandemic affected every race, the report also notes an “appalling” reduction in life expectancy among Black and Latinx people due to the health impacts of the pandemic, Ghilarducci said.
The report also shows that businesses owned by non-whites suffered under the pandemic. Statewide, 41% of Black-owned businesses failed, since March 2020, along with 32% of those owned by Latinx people, 26% by Asians and 25% by women.
There were bright spots in the presentation. The various economic stimulus packages by state and federal governments helped close the wealth gap and kept some people from going into debt, Ghilarducci said. In addition, legislation limiting evictions helped reduce the spread of Covid-19 by 3.8% and deaths by 11%.
Also, Hall said that all 7,000 of the county’s permanent farmworkers have been vaccinated.
Hall said that the county helped address the inequities caused by the pandemic by investing its stimulus payments into Health Services Agency programs. This includes $10.3 million that went to pay for testing, data management, infrastructure and equipment.
It also included $1.8 million for economic support for uninsured and underinsured people impacted by Covid-19.
After receiving more than $50 million from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, the county has already earmarked $6.4 million for public health programs, and plans on investing another $11 million to further bolster those efforts including data, health infrastructure and community engagement, Hall said.
“I really wish that the federal government and the state were able to invest even more, because when you spread it out over the up to four years that these dollars were intended for, there are still scarce dollars for what we need,” she said.
The report also looks at discrepancies in vaccine distribution.
When looking at vaccines administered by all providers countywide, South County came out behind, with just 29% of the total vaccines. That’s compared to 32% in North County and 39% in Mid-County.
But the HSA worked to ameliorate this discrepancy by administering 61% if its vaccine supplies in South County, Hall said.
“The way you address a disease properly and impactfully is to go where it is impacting communities the most,” she said. “When we do our work in this manner, we are protecting the entire community by protecting those who are most likely to be impacted.”