Record editorial: Pandemic has laid bare inequities in our community and our society
Among the many individual tragedies during the broader calamity of the coronavirus pandemic are the societal inequities the crisis has laid bare. They’ve never been far from the surface, lurking within sight for anyone willing to look, but now they are out in the open for all to see, undeniable.
One example strikes particularly close to home and leaps out in the COVID-19 data released by the state Department of Health. It shows Latinos, who make up only about 14% of the state’s population, account for nearly 40% of Utahns who’ve tested positive for the virus. White people, for comparison, account for a similar percentage of cases — but comprise 78% of the population.
While data breaking down the demographics of cases in Summit County by race is not publicly available, it’s a good bet the situation here is similar — if not even more pronounced. Even before the virus appeared here, officials warned that Park City’s Latino community would be more vulnerable to both its health and economic impacts.
And Utah and Summit County are not outliers; the problem extends well beyond the state’s borders. Evidence has mounted that minorities across the U.S. are being hit disproportionately hard by the pandemic.
The reasons for the sobering situation are many. They range, experts say, from the fact people in many minority groups are more likely to be employed in “essential” industries or work other jobs that cannot be performed remotely, to the reality that economic hardship makes it more difficult for many people to take time off if they or a family member gets sick without imperiling their ability to put food on the table.
In an especially cruel twist, racial minorities even have higher rates of the kinds of underlying medical conditions that exacerbate the coronavirus’s health risk.
Now it’s time we face the painful truth, as a community and a country: The system is broken and there are no easy solutions. Even in a place like Park City, where elected officials make good-faith efforts to bolster the ideal of social equity and nonprofits seek to bridge gaps but where broad inequities remain nonetheless.
The situation demands sustained action from everyone, beginning with introspection about all the ways in which our society is falling short. We must state the issues plainly and call on leaders, from the White House to the Marsac Building, to do more, to advocate for change, to be a voice for those whose struggles have been ignored too often for too long.
And if the pandemic has made anything clear, it’s that we must refuse to settle for anything less than concrete, dramatic progress.
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