Hispanic Oregonians are contracting COVID-19 at a highly disproportionate rate: They constitute 13.3% of the state's population but account for 34% of the diagnosed cases.
But data first disclosed today on who is actually getting tested in Multnomah County suggests those numbers do not begin to capture the real discrepancy.
Here's why: In Multnomah County, the state's most populous, with more than 812,000 people, more than 51% of those who have been tested are white and only 5.4% of those who have been tested are Latinx or Hispanic.
That is wildly out of proportion with the county's racial and ethnic makeup—and the percentage of residents tested who actually got a positive test result.
In Multnomah County, Hispanics are 10% of the population but account for 27% of the cases.
Here's what it boils down to: White residents of Multnomah County have received about 10 times the number of tests Hispanics have received, yet whites account for only about 1.5 times the number of cases.
Kim Toevs, director of the county's communicable diseases program, says the numbers reflect that most testing takes place at the county's major hospital systems and that access to health care is inequitable. People of color, including Hispanics, Toevs says, are less likely to have health insurance, less likely to have regular contact with health care providers, and less likely to be able to take time off work for testing.
"It's our collective responsibility to reduce the barriers to testing," Toevs says.
County public health director Rachael Banks said as part of the reopening process, the county is seeking to expand testing with a new drop-in testing center at the East County Clinic.
Overall, county officials today said that despite a recent uptick in cases and hospitalizations, the county remains on track to reopen June 12.
OSPIRG, a nonprofit that researches public policy issues, says that's a mistake. The group this morning urged the county not to reopen June 12, citing a recent upturn in cases.
But Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury said experts in the county health department, including tri-county health officer Dr. Jennifer Vines, are satisfied there is sufficient hospital capacity, personal protective equipment and other necessary elements to reopen.
"We are moving from the emergency phase to learning to live with this virus," Kafoury said. "We are planning to move forward on Friday if the state gives its approval."