Older adults, Latino residents are disproportionately dying from COVID-19 in Santa Barbara County

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While young and middle-aged adults make up the most COVID-19 cases in Santa Barbara County, deaths are highest among elderly residents, according to recently released data. Latinos and Hispanics contract, are hospitalized, and die from COVID-19 at disproportionate rates.

RACIAL DISPARITIES Latino and Hispanic residents make up a disproportionate percentage of Santa Barbara County’s COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, according to county data. - SCREENSHOT OF SANTA BARBARA COUNTY COMMUNITY DATA DASHBOARD
  • SCREENSHOT OF SANTA BARBARA COUNTY COMMUNITY DATA DASHBOARD
  • RACIAL DISPARITIES Latino and Hispanic residents make up a disproportionate percentage of Santa Barbara County’s COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, according to county data.
The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department’s epidemiology team recently released the COVID-19 demographics report, which analyzes COVID-19 data up to Dec. 31, 2020. The data reveals which age groups and races are most affected by the virus in Santa Barbara County, and compares these numbers against the county’s population.

People aged 18 to 29 represent an inordinate percentage of COVID-19 cases in the county, as this group makes up 21 percent of the county’s population, but 30 percent of its cases. Adverse outcomes for 18 to 29-year-olds who contract the virus are low, making up 16 percent of hospitalizations and less than 1 percent of deaths.



While those aged 70 and older only make up 11 percent of the county’s population and 7 percent of its cases, they account for 26 percent of hospitalizations and 67 percent of deaths.

Children (those under 18) accounted for only 9 percent of COVID-19 cases, despite being 23 percent of the county’s population, but Public Health Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso said that most schools were closed for in-person classes during the reporting period.

“As Santa Barbara County schools start to reopen, it’s possible that more cases will be attributed to children in the next quarter,” she said during a Feb. 19 press conference.

With Santa Barbara County’s adjusted case rate at 16.9 per 100,000 cases as of Feb. 23, kindergarten through sixth grade-serving school districts that have submitted their safety plans may reopen under state guidelines.

The county’s demographic report also reveals racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 cases and recovery. While Hispanic and Latino people account for 48 percent of Santa Barbara County’s population, this group made up 57 percent of cases in the county, 67 percent of hospitalizations, and 50 percent of deaths. White people make up 43 percent of the county population, but just 15 percent of cases, 23 percent of hospitalized cases, and 39 percent of deaths.

“Many of these deaths occurred at skilled nursing homes and other congregate care settings, which have been highly impacted by the pandemic,” Do-Reynoso said.

About 22 percent of COVID-19 cases in the data set were missing the person’s race. However, no racial data was missing from reported deaths, where Hispanic and Latino residents were also disproportionately affected.

COVID-19 metrics in Santa Barbara County continue to improve each week, but the health equity metric—a state data point that tracks positive cases in disadvantaged communities—remains elevated in comparison to the overall positivity rate.

“While the SARS-Cov-2 is novel, the disparate impact of [the] COVID-19 pandemic on Santa Barbara County’s communities of color is deeply rooted in the historic and ongoing social and economic inequalities that lead to persistent racial disparities in health status,” Do-Reynoso said at the press conference. Δ



—Malea Martin

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