Toronto's racialized, low-income communities have higher rates of coronavirus cases

Jul 2 2020, 9:00 pm

Data collected by the City of Toronto around COVID-19 cases shows that low-income residents have the highest rates of the virus, as well as racialized communities.

On Thursday, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said that recent data from the past three weeks has shown that new cases and hospitalizations are higher in areas with a high proportion of low-income residents, newcomers to Canada, and people with core housing needs.

At the same time, certain racialized groups are over-represented in areas with a higher coronavirus case-rate, including people who are Black, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Latin American.

Black patients make up 9% of Toronto’s overall cases, but in areas of the city with a high case rate, they make up 18% of the population.

Toronto Public Health

There was also a correlation found with higher case rate, with people who are low-income earners.

Toronto Public Health

The same is also said for hospitalizations, newcomers to Canada, and household crowding.

Public health data also shows that the most common occupations associated with case investigations include factory workers, retail/customer service representatives, and select health care-related occupations

Because individual-level information on most socio-demographic characteristics for those testing positive are not currently available, data was used from the 2016 Canadian Census. Toronto Public Health then looked at the characteristics of the areas where people who have a probably or confirmed diagnosis of the virus live, to gain insight about possible trends.

Toronto Public Health emphasized that while this method can show potential trends, it does have limitations.

A person is not necessarily defined by the characteristics of the area where they live. For example, just because someone lives in an area with lots of newcomers, it does not mean that they are a newcomer themselves.

And, testing for COVID-19 is currently targeted at specific high-risk groups. Not everyone who has COVID-19 symptoms is receiving a test, and so the case rates reflect who is being tested only.

In order to address the social determinants of health, de Villa recommended that the Board of Health look at alternative accommodation, like hotel rooms, for coronavirus patients who can’t self-isolate at home.

She also recommended to look at better access to the outdoors and space for physical activity for vulnerable communities as part of the ActiveTO program and to have de Villa work with the City’s Office of Recovery and Rebuild to prioritize approaches to addressing the social determinants of health for communities most impacted by the virus.

All recommendations were approved by the board on Thursday morning.

Toronto Public Health also launched an interactive map which shows coronavirus cases by neighbourhood. The communities most impacted by the virus in recent weeks continue to be concentrated in the North West of the city.

To date, there have been 14, 468 total cases in the city, with 12, 574 recovered with 1,100 reported deaths.

Clarrie FeinsteinClarrie Feinstein

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