KITCHENER -- A new study from Region of Waterloo Public Health shows that visible minorities, low-income households and households where English and French are not the first language spoken have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

At a virtual meeting on Tuesday, officials presented data from a study conducted between July 17 and Oct. 21.

Of the 444 cases in the study that had valid race data, cases of visible minorities were recorded three times more than the proportion of the population.

"The proportion of cases that identify as a visible minority and as Black is much higher than we would expect from the census data," said Sharlene Sedgwick Walsh, the region's director of healthy living.

The report showed that visible minorities make up about 19 per cent of the region's population, but that they make up 63.7 per cent of COVID-19 cases. Black people constitute about 2.9 per cent of the region's population, but make up about 16.7 per cent of local cases.

Local public health officials said Tuesday that these findings are in line with what's been seen in other jurisdictions like Ottawa, Toronto and Hamilton.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has unfortunately accentuated existing structural and systemic inequities and these findings underscore the need for a greater collective, community response for groups and neighbourhoods disproportionately affected," said Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang.

The report showed that those in the lowest income brackets have been affected more, too.

While most people—more than 58 per cent—did not disclose their household income, those who did tended to make less money.

Cases were dispersed in the following income brackets:

  • $0 to $29,999: 10.6 per cent of cases
  • $30,000 to $49,999: 5.9 per cent
  • $50,000 to $69,999: 7.2 per cent
  • $70,000 to $99,999: 6.3 per cent
  • $100,000 to $149,999: 4.5 per cent
  • $150,000 and over: 6.2 per cent
  • Didn't know/preferred not to say: 58.4 per cent

Public health officials also said that those who were non-official language speakers—or people whose first languages were not French or English—represented a higher number of cases than expected compared to census data.

A little more than 23 per cent of Waterloo Region's population fall into that category, but the report showed that they made up 61.8 per cent of cases.

To date, the region has seen more than 2,800 cases of COVID-19, including more than 360 in the past week alone.