Advancement Project California, as part of its RACE COUNTS initiative, released a new interactive report, “COVID-19: Statewide Vulnerability & Recovery Index.”

This new tool identifies the most vulnerable communities by their ZIP Code to show state and local leaders where to focus efforts to address COVID-19 disparate impacts and to eradicate systemic racism in public systems so that all Californians can thrive.

Over 3 million Californians have contracted COVID-19, and more than 40,000 have died from it. Amongst those, Latinx and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders (NHPI) have the highest case rates. Black, NHPI, and Latinx communities have the highest death rates.

“The pandemic has shown how California’s legacy of racist land use, employment, education, and health policies devastated the state’s low-income communities of color,” said Maria Cabildo, senior advisor at Advancement Project California. “As the virus continues to ravage these communities, policymakers must center equity in their budgets and provide both immediate relief and direct investments to offset long standing inequities.”

The group believes the index is critical to assisting policymakers in identifying and targeting resources to our highest-need communities to build upon their resilience and create a more equitable tomorrow.

“The need to better protect low-income communities from COVID-19—Black, Latinx, NHPI, and American Indian and Alaskan Native (AIAN) Californians—could not be clearer,” said Chauncee Smith, manager of RACE COUNTS at Advancement Project California. “We must do more to prioritize the health and safety of these communities and put them on a path to not only recover but thrive in the future.”

Key findings from the index include the fact that many of California’s hardest-hit ZIP Codes have a large share of Latinx and AIAN Californians and people in poverty. They also have a high percent of

Black residents, a group with one of the highest death rates throughout the pandemic. Substantial portions of the Central Valley, the Inland Empire, Imperial County, and South/Southeast greater Los Angeles area fall within the Highest Need category.

It is hoped that government officials would take additional and immediate steps to address the disparate impact of COVID-19 on Black, Latinx, NHPI, and AIAN communities. State and local leaders can use this index to target interventions going forward to develop equity-based vaccine distribution protocols and seed economic recovery in California’s chronically underfunded communities hit hardest by the pandemic.

“A legacy of racist policymaking created vulnerable communities that were fertile ground for COVID-19 infection, spread, and deaths,” said John Kim, executive director at Advancement Project California. “Only policies rooted in equity can begin to repair the harm that has been done.”