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Salt Lake County creates diversity team as part of COVID-19 response

Jenny Wilson. (Credit: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah — Salt Lake County announced it would be creating a new COVID-19 response team, specifically focused on the needs of those in underserved communities. For the communities hit hardest by the virus, the team will expand services to diverse, immigrant and refugee populations.

Hispanic and Latinx populations are being hit the hardest by the virus in Salt Lake County, with most communities facing a 28% infection rate, according to research from the Utah Department of Health. This has created a sense of urgency, which Mayor Jenny Wilson said needs to be addressed with a strong infusion of available resources.

“I acknowledge there are gaps in serving the needs of populations experiencing inequities which is also causing disparities, and it is one of my top priorities to ensure we can work to close those gaps,” Wilson said in a statement. “The ability to staff up information and services during this crisis will allow us to develop more sophisticated systems and work practices to support these populations not only during this crisis, but for years to come.”

This comes after Gov. Gary Herbert unveiled a new subcommittee to the state’s coronavirus task force Thursday, which he said is aimed at supporting minority communities. Minority communities are experiencing inaccessibility to many of the resources the rest of the state is receiving since the pandemic broke out mid-March.

Minority populations in Utah encounter 10 unique challenges during the pandemic, according to a survey conducted by the Utah Division of Multicultural Affairs. These include access to health care, accessible technology, housing and food security, language barriers and higher risk of the spread of misinformation.

Teams in Salt Lake County will focus on providing these communities with health care resources, including increased testing. It will also ensure ethnic-owned business owners have access to economic stimulus and recovery resources that are available.

“Our community is strengthened by diversity,” Wilson said. “We need to step up our services to those who have historically lacked equitable access and opportunity.”

The newly-created task force will focus its attention on four areas:

  • Language barriers and equitable access to health and economic information
  • Equitable and inclusive testing access, including transportation to testing sites
  • Support of ethnic-owned small business owners accessing stimulus and recovery funds
  • Food security for diverse, immigrant, and refugee families and individual.

“Our focus is to serve all historically under-resourced populations in unique ways,” Wilson said, “Our partnerships will be a big step forward both today while specifically addressing COVID-19 and in the future as we work together to lift all communities.”