How is COVID-19 affecting minority communities? B.C. doesn’t know
B.C. will not begin collecting data on how minority communities — including racialized people, ethnic groups and people with disabilities — are being affected by COVID-19 until a national data-gathering system is hashed out.
This week, the health ministry confirmed the province’s plan is stalled.
“This will be part of our new case reporting, but we are waiting on the national framework to ensure B.C. is collecting data that is consistent with what other provinces are doing,” a ministry spokesperson said in a statement to BC Today.
That national system is “in the works,” according to Dr. Bonnie Henry, but there is no timeline for when it might be implemented.
Indigenous people in the province are an exception; the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) has been monitoring infections and fatalities among First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in the province due to the coronavirus.
Data released by the FNHA in June suggests Indigenous people in B.C. have “fared better” than the general population with 86 people confirmed to have contracted Covid as of June 14. Just three First Nations fatalities were confirmed.
Data from other jurisdictions indicates unequal impact of COVID-19
When it comes to non-Indigenous people, what little data the province has on how the pandemic is impacting different demographics suggests that non-white British Columbians are being disproportionately impacted.
Last week, the province released some of the results from the online survey it circulated in April and May (about 10 per cent of the province’s adult population responded).
Racialized British Columbians were more likely to report negative impacts as a result of the pandemic, but their experience was not uniform. Respondents who identified as West Asian, Latin American and South Asian were more likely to report significant financial impacts while those who identified as West Asian, Latin American and Black were more likely to report losing their jobs as a result of the pandemic.
Multi-ethnic, Japanese, Korean and South Asian respondents were the most likely to report difficulty accessing health care.
The survey results also suggested lower income British Columbians experienced more negative financial and health-related duress due to the pandemic.
However, the data did not provide Covid infection rates among various demographics.
Data released by the City of Toronto revealed Black people represented 21 per cent of infections — despite being just nine per cent of the population — and people who “identified as part of a racialized group” accounted for 83 per cent of the city’s confirmed Covid cases despite making up just half of the population.
Ontario has not made provincewide data on the racial, ethnic or economic status of Covid cases publicly available. Neither has Alberta.
B.C.’s human rights commissioner has been asked to provide the province with “guidance, advice and recommendations for action” on demographic data collection with a focus on avoiding privacy issues and stigmatization. Commissioner Kasari Govender is due to report to the province by September 1.