Although COVID-19 infections and deaths in California are finally on the decline, Latinos continue to make up a disproportionate share of deaths in Los Angeles County.
Long Beach, California, Mayor Robert Garcia knows this disparity too well. Garcia, who is Latino, had both of parents die of COVID-19 last year. Now, he's leading the push to vaccinate the Latino community in Long Beach.
"The most important thing to recognize is that because so many essential workers are Latino, they've been on the front lines this entire time," Garcia said in an interview with ABC News Live on Wednesday.
According to Garcia, the vaccination program is modeled after Long Beach's effort to make COVID-19 testing accessible to the Latino community. In addition to widespread early outreach, the city sent mobile clinics with bilingual workers into undocumented communities in Long Beach, in order to help them feel more comfortable about getting tested. In addition to Spanish-speaking community organizations, the city is partnering with Black churches and community groups for testing.
Now, they're doing the same mobile outreach for vaccinations.
"If we don't hyperfocus on some of the cultural needs and awareness around the Latino population and how they relate to vaccination or testing, we'll continue to lose a lot more lives," Garcia said.
"We're ensuring that we have multiple languages and communications that we get out to folks," he added. In addition to hotlines and online resources, vaccine workers are knocking on doors and talking to people on the ground.
The effort has paid off, according to Garcia, with the city distributing more than 30,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to residents so far.
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