Data: COVID-19 disproportionately affecting Chatham’s Hispanic residents

BY ZACHARY HORNER, News + Record Staff
Posted 6/8/20

Chatham County’s Hispanic community has been affected by COVID-19 more than any other single population group within the county borders, according to data released Friday by the Chatham County Public Health Department.

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Data: COVID-19 disproportionately affecting Chatham’s Hispanic residents

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Chatham County’s Hispanic community has been affected by COVID-19 more than any other single population group within the county borders, according to data released Friday by the Chatham County Public Health Department.

While Chatham County’s population is 12 percent Hispanic, and 18 percent of tests have been conducted on Latinx individuals, at least 34 percent of the confirmed cases of COVID-19 are from the Hispanic community. That’s compared to 24 percent of non-Hispanic individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 — a community that makes up 57 percent of the tests and 88 percent of the county’s population.

Of those who tested positive, the race was not known in 42 percent of cases, the county said.

The data was released in a new dashboard on the county website which includes, for the first time, demographic data.

“We have been working to add this information to our COVID-19 dashboard for quite some time, but it requires due diligence to ensure that privacy is protected for individuals who have tested positive,” Interim Public Health Director Mike Zelek said Monday in a news release. “The number of confirmed cases is now at a level where releasing this information cannot inadvertently identify any individual cases.”

Zelek pointed to the high number of cases in the Latinx population and in long-term care facilities. The latter group have been of concern since the beginning of the pandemic, since research shows the virus can have particularly severe effects on individuals 65-and-over. As of Friday, two Chatham long-term care facilities accounted for a combined 198 cases and 28 deaths from COVID-19.

But the focus on minority groups got a boost last week when Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order creating a task force designed “to focus on economy stability, health disparities and environmental justice in North Carolina.”

“COVID-19 is shining a light on disparities that have long existed in our health care and economic institutions for communities of color,” Cooper said in a news release. “Today’s Executive Order will expand our state’s efforts to help North Carolinians recover from the pandemic and improve access to affordable healthcare and quality economic opportunities in our state.”

The executive order stated that, as of June 1, African-Americans accounted for 30 percent of positive cases and 34 percent of deaths and Hispanics made up 39 percent of the positive cases in North Carolina. The two groups combined make up 32 percent of the state’s population.

In the county press release, Zelek said the county health department has been focusing on a number of initiatives aimed at providing equal information and access around the county, including increasing testing capacity, sharing bilingual health information through “many channels” and “encouraging employers to provide adequate sick leave.”

“We remain concerned about the impact COVID-19 is having in Chatham County, and especially among the Latinx population and in long-term care facilities,” Zelek said. “This is why, in addition to raising awareness about the virus and ways to reduce its spread across the Chatham community as a whole, we have long focused targeted response strategies in these communities.”

Chatham County continues to have a higher proportion of positive tests compared to other counties throughout the state. As of Friday, Chatham made up 2.14 percent of the state’s positive COVID-19 cases and just 0.7 percent of the state’s population. Additionally, 30.4 percent of the tests conducted in Chatham came back positive, compared to just 6.4 percent of testing across North Carolina.

The health department added that the data currently available — like other data sets before it — may not be entirely reflective of reality due to the lack of widespread testing. Regardless, it said, the data “should not be seen as grounds for fear or stigma.”

“Everyone is at risk for becoming infected with this virus,” the press release stated.

The latest data can be found at

Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.


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