British Columbia

Filipino advocacy group asks province to look at race in COVID-19 cases to find out who's most at risk

The Tulayan Filipino Diaspora Society, based in Vancouver, says people of colour are disproportionately affected by the virus and more information is needed to support them.

Early death in pandemic was a 47-year-old front-line caregiver from Philippines

COVID-19 victim and Vancouver resident Warlito Valdez, far left, in a photo with co-workers from the Philippines who worked with him in Saudi Arabia. Many new Canadians who immigrated from the Philippines work in health care here and say that places them at higher risk during the pandemic. (Minerva Rivera)

A Vancouver-based advocacy group for the Filipino community says its members may be at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and are calling on the province to collect data to verify it.

RJ Aquino, director of the Tulayan Filipino Diaspora Society, says Filipinos are over-represented among front-line and essential workers in hospitals and health care facilities in B.C.

He wants the province to break down B.C. COVID-19 cases by race and ethnicity, specifically the number of hospitalizations and recoveries, to determine if certain groups are disproportionately impacted by the virus.

"One way for our communities to feel safe and supported is to see if there is public health policies being created out of the data collected," Aquino said Thursday on The Early Edition.

It's needed, he said, because there were already two fatalities in the Filipino community when the death rate for B.C. stood at 50 in early April.

One of those deaths was 47-year-old Warlito Valdez who worked in a group home for disabled people.

Valdez's wife, Flozier Tabangin, described him as "hero." 

Flozier Tabangin says her husband, Warlito Valdez, was a hero for his dedication to his job and family. She's worried about their future now that he has died of COVID-19. 0:48

"My husband has a very good heart," she told reporters from her front step shortly after his death. "He is such a gentleman and a very nice person, loving husband."

Tabangin said her husband loved going to work, as a care-worker at the Richmond Society for Community Living.

U.S. data links race and risk

Last week, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the province is "actively discussing" how to go about collecting data from patients in regards to race. 

In the United States, data collected suggests COVID-19 is proving deadlier for black people and Latinos.

In the 12 states reporting race and ethnicity data around COVID-19, black residents were found to be 2.5 times more likely to die of the virus than the general population, according to the public policy research group APM Research Lab.

The City of Toronto's public health unit says it is now starting to collect race-based data as well.

"We are seeing a disproportionate amount of people of colour being affected by this pandemic," said Aquino.

Aquino said the province was receptive to another concern the society had early in the pandemic — a lack of public health information in Tagalog.

"There was not translated information for the Filipino community," said Aquino, adding this has now been addressed.

To hear the complete interview with RJ Aquino on The Early Edition, tap the audio link below:

Director R-J Aquino speaks with Stephen Quinn about why he believes such information will help inform government response. 7:46

With files from The Early Edition