In 2020, some Salt Lake County neighborhoods that suffered the most from the pandemic were on the west side.
As blue-collar workers, many of these residents didn’t have the option to do their jobs remotely from home, and the Latino population experienced disproportionate effects from COVID-19.
Fast forward to 2022, when vaccines and even booster shots have become available, and the Latino population still has one of the state’s lowest inoculation rates.
About 50% of Latinos in Utah are vaccinated. So west-side representatives on the Salt Lake City Council urged residents anew Tuesday to make vaccinations and boosters a priority.
“My Latino friends, and my Pacific Islander friends on the west side, we’re holding it down. But this time, we’re not holding it down in a good way,” said recently elected District 1 council member Victoria Petro-Eschler. “We’re holding the rate down, and we’re actually increasing transmission.”
About 57% of Glendale residents are fully vaccinated, data from the Utah Department of Health shows. The Rose Park area also shows the same percentage. A few blocks away, though, in downtown Salt Lake City, around 76% of residents are fully inoculated.
For Petro-Eschler, getting the vaccine is an act of love for communities — just as it is in Latino culture to offer food to unexpected guests.
“We take care of each other — whoever shows up, however we need to,” she said at a news conference at the Sorenson Multi-Cultural Center. “That’s what this vaccine is. It is us caring for each other.”
The shots increase the probability to survive the pandemic, the newly inaugurated council member reminded those who are hesitant to lose workdays after any vaccine side effects.
“It is something that just makes our neighborhood safer,” she said, “and allows us to return to all those things that make us the best side.”
Alejandro Puy, District 2;s new council member, also encouraged west-siders to get fully vaccinated and mask up while indoors.
“We want to encourage all of you to do your part to share the message,” Puy said. “Send a text message to your friends and your family.”
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall highlighted an important number: People who are unvaccinated are 10 times more likely to end up hospitalized after catching COVID-19.
“We are seeing the biggest wave we’ve ever seen with this pandemic,” Mendenhall said, “the sheer volume of which is threatening to cripple our hospital system.”
She noted that other U.S. mayors have been forced to issue emergency declarations in the face of having insufficient employees to answer and respond to 911 calls
“We do not want to go there,” she said. “We don’t want more deaths in our city.”
This message, the mayor said, is especially important for the west side.
“We see the numbers, and we see the way that it has rolled out over the past waves,” Mendenhall said. “It’s going to have an impact on the west-side community. We know it is because it has been all along.”
She encouraged unvaccinated people to find free vaccine clinics in Salt Lake County at thisisourshot.com.
West-side businesses also can contact the Suazo Business Center for resources and strategies to manage COVID-related challenges, such as time off in case of vaccine side effects.
Alixel Cabrera is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of communities on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.