Sacramento County launches program to help communities hardest hit by COVID-19

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Sacramento County has started a program to focus attention on communities that have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The numbers in Sacramento County mirror what’s happening statewide: Hispanics, Asian and Pacific Islanders, Black and Native American populations are 40% to 50% more likely to contract COVID-19.

Many people in those groups tend to work in high-risk, essential businesses, cannot afford to stop work and have more dense living conditions.

The Sierra Health Foundation is overseeing a collaborative effort, called Collab for short, that uses established community groups to reach out to communities in an emergency-like response directive.

“(It’s) a targeted but a universal strategy to support those families in multiple ways,” said Sierra Health Foundation’s Kindra Montgomery-Block.

Health counseling for those testing positive, immediate contact tracing, help with unemployment, rental assistance, food deliveries, and food bank serves are some of the resources being offered.

The Collab also provides added support for businesses that are having a tough time navigating pandemic rules and are struggling to stay in business.

COVID-19 in these populations can be devastating in multiple ways: “to the rise in spike in violence, the rise and spike in suicides right now but also the food insecurities and the job insecurities,” Montgomery-Block explained.

The United Way is a key supporter and helped develop a financial assistance component to address its concern over economic equity.

“If they need to pay the rent, pay the utilities, like, you know, what you need for your family in this crisis. Being able to trust families and that’s the way that we operate,” said Kula Koenig, the director of community impact for United Way.

The focus on vulnerable communities comes at a time when state health officials want demonstrated improvement in vulnerable populations before relaxing shutdown rules.

“Our positivity rate needs to be in the orange tier for both the overall, as well as for the quartile that is considered to be part of this equity index,” explained Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye.

The program uses trained workers from community organizations who are known in key neighborhoods and who are fluent in native languages.

Program officials said the cultural familiarity will go a long way in developing cooperation and trust.

“Speaking the language you understand is just more comforting rather than navigating other stresses, that you don’t understand the same language and doesn’t understand your particular cultural nuances,” Koenig said.

The Collab program was funded by Sacramento County, which used nearly $16 million of federal CARES Act money to pull together over a dozen organizations for the effort.

Tap or click here for information about the program.