New Toronto data shows how racialized, lower-income communities being hit hard by coronavirus

Stark new data from Toronto Public Health shows racialized and lower-income communities in the city are being disproportionately affected by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“There is growing evidence in North America and beyond that racialized people and people living in lower-income households are more likely to be affected by COVID-19 infection,” Dr. Eileen de Villa told reporters during a news conference Thursday afternoon, noting the reasons are not fully understood yet.

“We believe it is related to poverty and racism.”

De Villa said the data was collected from individuals between May 20 and July 16.

Read more: Black neighbourhoods in Toronto are hit hardest by COVID-19 — and it’s ‘anchored in racism’: experts

“Collecting and analyzing these data informs our public health response and actions to protect your health,” she said.

According to de Villa’s presentation, 83 per cent of people who have contracted COVID-19 in Toronto are racialized. However, Toronto’s racialized communities make up 52 per cent of the city’s population.

De Villa said Arab, Middle Eastern, West Asian, Black, South Asian, Latin American and Indo-Caribbean people are overrepresented in the total number of cases compared to the population statistics.

She said Arab, Middle Eastern and West Asian people makeup four per cent of Toronto’s population but represent 11 per cent of COVID-19 cases. De Villa said Black people makeup nine per cent of Toronto’s population but represent 21 per cent of COVID-19 cases.

It was noted East Asian and white residents are underrepresented in the total number of cases compared to the population statistics.

When it comes to the income of those affected, she said those with lower incomes are overrepresented in COVID-19 cases. De Villa said 51 per cent of those with COVID-19 are considered lower-income, which is compared to 30 per cent of the city’s population who meet the same definition.

For those earning under $50,000, the share of COVID-19 cases was more than 10 per cent higher than the share of the Toronto population.

De Villa said it was also important to note long-term care homes were not included and some residents declined to share their information, adding some were in critical condition and unable to provide race and income data.

She also said Indigenous communities weren’t included in the current round of data collection due to ongoing consultation with those communities.

Read more: City of Toronto urges province to collect COVID-19 race and occupation data

Coun. Joe Cressy, who is also the chair of Toronto’s board of health, said it felt like “a punch to the gut” when he heard the statistics.

“Perhaps they shouldn’t surprise us. We know that race and income have long determined health status, but they do represent a call to action,” he said Thursday afternoon.

“COVID by no means created these racial and economic disparities in Toronto — they existed long before — but COVID has certainly exposed and taken advantage of them.”

More to come.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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