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COVID-19 hurts some groups in Pierce County more than others.

People of color, the elderly and those with low incomes suffer more from COVID-19. 

During the  pandemic, we’ve worked hard to inform the public about how to protect themselves against COVID-19, slow the spread of disease, and help those in need.

We believe everyone deserves a fair chance to be healthy. We wanted to find out who COVID has affected most, why, and what this tells us about our community.

Avoidable and unfair outcomes.

What have we learned? Some people suffer worse health outcomes from COVID-19 than others. Poverty, lack of access to healthcare, and racism leave some people less protected.

In a May blog, we explained how health inequities could reduce protection from COVID-19 for many people. Now, we’ve seen evidence that it happened.

We recently completed the Pierce County COVID-19 Health Equity Assessment. We found COVID-19 disease risk is higher for people:

• Of color.

• Who make less money.

• With less education.

• Who don’t speak much English.

Many people can’t afford to stay at home when they’re sick or quarantine when they’re exposed to COVID-19. Limited access to healthcare reduced the amount of early testing and treatment.

We met with more than 200 Pierce County residents in group settings. who described their physical, emotional, and financial struggles through the pandemic.

Their voices remind us their lives matter. Our community partners, especially those representing Black, Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) taught us we have much work to do to address their issues—and we need to listen and to act. They need to be a priority when we vaccinate Pierce County.

The steps we take in the weeks ahead to increase access to disproportionately affected groups are essential to our public health mission to ensure we protect and improve the health of all people. This week, we are beginning targeted community-run vaccination clinics to do just that. It is critical work to make sure we boost vaccination rates among groups COVID-19 has hit hardest.

Inequities threaten everyone’s health.

What the data tell us.

Social, economic, and environmental barriers make the pandemic worse for people and communities.

Compared to white Pierce County residents:

  • Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander residents’ infection rate is four times as high.
  • Hispanic and Black residents’ infection rate is twice as high.

Census-tract data shows those who live in the least advantaged areas were 50% to 100% more likely to be infected compared to those in the areas of most advantage.

We found racism left BIPOC communities less protected. For example:

  • Lack of transportation, no internet access, or limited English mean less access to information and resources that can prevent COVID-19.
  • Lack of money creates housing issues and homelessness. This leads to multiple families in one living space, motel living, increased use of shelters, and other conditions that increase the spread of COVID-19.
  • Health inequities mean more underlying health conditions that leave people more vulnerable to infection and serious symptoms.

What’s next.

It’s clear we must address racism and focus on vaccine distribution in communities hardest hit by COVID-19. The Equity Action Network is working with communities to ensure access to the vaccine.

For more long-term solutions, we partnered with the Northwest Center for Public Health Practice at the University of Washington to report on Policies to Advance Health Equity.

The report suggests we must focus on:

  • Healthcare access.
  • Economic stability.
  • Affordable housing.
  • Youth behavioral health.
  • Community development.
  • Education access.
  • Affordable food.
  • Social connections.

We are engaging community leaders on policies to address these areas. And we’re encouraging more people to get involved.

Disease prevention strategies should focus on improving social, economic, and environmental conditions. This includes efforts to reduce barriers caused by structural racism. We must engage the community and work across agencies, systems, and sectors to offer solutions.

Learn more and find out how you can help at

Four hands grasp each others' wrists.