Over 40% of COVID-19 cases in Utah are Latinos but they only make up about 14% of Utah’s population. Often a lack of access to health care services leaves these populations vulnerable.
About a third of the people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Southwest Utah identify as Hispanic or Latino, according to state health data. Yet, they only make up about 13% of the population in the region.
Some community members are pressuring the mayor of St. George to mandate masks to better protect the Latino population and other vulnerable people.
Michael Johnstone works with Latino populations in St. George and is calling for the local mandate because he said the Latino community is often forgotten.
And a requirement from the mayor would help the city keep the economy open, Johnstone said.
“The Latino population does a lot of the caretaking jobs here, a lot of the service jobs and a lot of the construction jobs,” he said. “And if they’re really more focused on the economy than protecting people’s health, they should at least see they go hand in hand.”
St. George Mayor Jon Pike said doing outreach to Latino populations lies with the local health department. However, he said he has been working with a local Spanish radio show to talk about public health guidelines.
“We’re hitting hard the topic of precautions, especially mask wearing as it relates to preventing the spread of COVID-19,” Pike said.
As for the mask mandate Johnstone is pushing for, the mayor said it’s not his choice alone to make, instead he’s encouraging private businesses to have their own policies.