The COVID-19 molecule
Immigrant and BIPOC communities have particularly been affected by both the health and social impacts of the pandemic. Image: CDC.
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BIPOC and Immigrant communities make up 37 per cent of cases in Ottawa

While COVID-19 has impacted everyone, immigrant and BIPOC communities have particularly been affected by both the health and social impacts of the pandemic.

As a result, multiple studies have found that racialized communities are being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

According to a study conducted by Ottawa Public Health in August, the reasoning is due to systemic health and social inequalities. The information cited lines up with similar provincial reports released for the province. 

Another study conducted out of John Hopkins University states that some of the leading reasons are housing problems, working in essential fields, and chronic health conditions and subsequent difficulty accessing health services.

On a local level, 25.8 per cent of Ottawa’s population identifies as a visible minority as per the 2016 census with seven per cent identifying themselves as Black. Yet, Ottawa’s Black population makes up a large number of positive COVID-19 cases in the city, (approximately 37 per cent).

The statistic raised alarms in the city and a motion was brought to the Ottawa Board of Health to recognize racism as a public health issue. 

Back in June, Councillor Shawn Menard posted a tweet about the motion.  

The details of the motion asks for all people involved in healthcare to partake in anti-racism training and ensure fair and equal treatment for people of all ethnicities.

Councillor Rawlson King, is not surprised by these findings. 

“Often unfortunately, there’s kind of this correlation between race and income. A lot of that was predictable, and it is unfortunate, especially with newcomers working in what are essential work and don’t have proper housing for larger families.” 

King states his worry about resource allocation to health and social services, but he is happy to have seen changes in recent times. 

“There has been acknowledgement from public health agencies and other social service agencies and there has been a strong movement towards response.”

Additionally, he believes working with community oriented organizations like Somerset West Community Health and Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership (OLIP) is key. 

All three organizations have been working on directly engaging through information kiosks in apartment complexes, going door to door, and directly engaging these communities.

King believes that door to door check-ins help increase access to healthcare especially for immigrants. 

“The key thing they’ve really been working on here is the program for direct community engagement,” King said.

 “This is especially important for newcomer or immigrant communities, cause you can’t just show up in traditional ways, it requires a higher level of personalization.”

Still, King emphasizes the need for a “serious plan” to be implemented to combat the stats.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done, to ensure there’s a serious plan in place to really address the continuing challenge of COVID and manage infection in communities on the way to a program of vaccination across the city.”