Data show Butler County Hispanic residents contracting coronavirus at high rates

Hispanic people are contracting the coronavirus at disproportionately high rates in Butler County, and particularly in Fairfield.

As of figures released Friday, people of Hispanic ethnicity represented 22.3 percent of those confirmed to have the virus. Butler County’s Hispanic population is 4.9 percent of the total.

Hamilton Health Commissioner Kay Farrar, who gave a presentation to Hamilton City Council on Wednesday, highlighted that high percentage.

“The thing that sticks out is the Hispanic number,” Farrar said. “So as you can see, it’s disproportionately high. That’s really the main thing that we’re noticing out of our current cases.”

In the latest county data, 40.4 percent of cases were non-Hispanic whites; 13.7 percent were non-Hispanic blacks; 11.8 percent were unknown races or refused; 8 percent were Asian and 3.8 percent were other or multi-racial.

The Butler County Public Health District and others told this media outlet four main factors they believed led to the high percentage of cases in that community:

  • A high percentage work in "essential jobs" during the pandemic crisis, which has increased their exposure. Such jobs include meat packing or factories in essential jobs that can increase exposure
  • They are more likely to experience high rates of poverty and low-wage jobs, so many feel more compelled to leave home to seek work even when they are ill
  • Many live in multi-generational, or multi-family housing conditions, which make it easier for the virus to spread
  • They generally lack access to health care, contributing to higher rates of diabetes and other conditions that worsen infections. Often, they don't go to the doctor unless they are very sick

Fr. Mike Pucke is a Spanish-speaking Catholic priest at St. Julie Billiart, St. Peter in Chains and St. Joseph churches, all in Hamilton.

“One thing I ask people consistently is, ‘Have your hours been cut?’ And by in large, our folks haven’t had their hours cut, unless they were working in restaurants,” he said.

The spread of disease among coworkers, Farrar said, “underlines the importance of maintaining distance and wearing masks. We have not beat this yet.”

Karla Eysoldt, Hispanic ministry coordinator for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati, said officials could have done more to help those in some populations.

Many written health materials “were not translated. I think when they started trying to communicate, it was a little too late,” she said.

Eysoldt brought Hamilton County health officials to events in Butler County “because they had, since the beginning, a bilingual nurse,” she said. She also has had Hispanic people who had the coronavirus speak during such presentations “because people were not believing it was true.”

Health officials learned from their data that Fairfield had the highest number of overall cases and a high density of Hispanics living in the area. So they worked to learn where people of Hispanic descent work, grocery shop, and worship within Fairfield “to target with tailored education and advocacy efforts,” the county health department said. “Most importantly, we strive to identify leaders within these spaces and the larger community that could advocate and help public health spread accurate and consistent infection prevention messaging.”

Farrar said health officials are working to improve outreach to the Hispanic community by using educational resources provided by the state, as well as hiring another contract tracer who speaks Spanish.

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