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Majority of COVID-19 Cases in Lancaster County, Nebraska Disproportionately Found in Asian American, Hispanic American Communities

Asian American and Hispanic Americans are contracting COVID-19 at disproportionately higher rates in Lancaster County, Nebraska, Lincoln Journal Star reports.

Racial and ethnic minorities make up about two-thirds of the county’s positive tests, even though they only make up 30 percent of the tested population.

According to the county’s health department, Asians accounted for one-third of the positive tests despite making up only 4 percent of the county’s total population. Hispanic residents make up only 7 percent of the county’s total population, but they account for 24 percent of the county’s positive tests.

More than one-third of Lancaster County’s cases are linked to the outbreak at a Smithfield meatpacking site in Create, which is just outside the county’s limits. The meatpacking company employs nearly 2,000 people, including many people from

The Smithfield outbreak is linked to the death of a Vietnamese American grandfather, whose story went viral a few weeks ago. On May 6, 22-year-old Vy Mai posted about her grandfather’s death on Facebook. Her grandfather had been living with her aunt and uncle who worked at Smithfield, according to NBC News. They had contracted COVID-19, but were asymptomatic and did not realize they had it.

Mai watched as Smithfield replied to Instagram comments from family members of loved ones who had contracted COVID-19. The generic nature of their replies frustrated her, so she decided to message them about her grandfather’s hoping that they would realize the gravity of the situation. She was disappointed by their response.

Mai’s grandfather is just one example. Investigations have found that 244 positive test cases are linked to Smithfield, according to Lincoln Star Journal. Around 154 of those cases are workers. The rest are family members. Smithfield, being deemed an essential business, has remained open with reduced hours. But workers and Lincoln residents say the company is not doing enough to protect its workers many of whom are immigrants and people of color.

Officials say that more needs to be done to help vulnerable communities. Many minorities rely on the paychecks they receive from working at “essential businesses” like Smithfield. Minorities may also have living situations that make social distancing difficult. Language barriers may make it difficult for non-English speakers to receive accurate information about COVID-19.

“I don’t think we’ve done a great job as a state, frankly, getting the message to different communities as effectively as we could early on about prevention,” Lincoln Mayor Gaylor Baird told Lincoln Star Journal.

Mayor Baird praised the health department’s efforts to work with cultural centers to translate information into multiple languages like Spanish, Arabic and Vietnamese. However, she emphasized that the numbers revealing the disproportionate impact on Asian and Hispanic communities indicate that continuing targeted outreach is important.

“These numbers aren’t just numbers to us,” she said. “They’re people. They’re people who call Lincoln home, people we care deeply about and people who make this city great.”

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1 COMMENT

  1. RE; Majority of COVID-19 cases in Lancaster County, Nebraska disproportionately found in Asian American, Hispanic American communities: As a POC I can’t help but think that there’s a ton of implicit bias in the official belief that they’ve “done a great job” in responding to the blooming Covid-19 crisis at their doorsteps. If one were to take a head count of the labor force within the meat processing industry you’d find a disproportionate percentage of the work force is made up of workers who are POC. [See: https://migration.ucdavis.edu/rmn/more.php?id=1675%5D
    It was the same when white Americans realized they had a drug abuse problem, they never cared till the realization grew that their own white kids were impacted.

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