Multnomah County health officials, together with state and federal authorities, are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and working locally to keep our community healthy. And that starts with sharing facts, not spreading fear.
Some residents have experienced acts of racism and xenophobia, while some businesses have even reported fewer customers because of the myths surrounding COVID-19.
A person’s ethnicity, language or association with a country or region is not a risk factor for this virus. Health officials have also emphasized that concern about COVID-19 is not a reason to deny care to a patient.
Fear and anxiety can lead to social stigma — discrimination against a group of people, a place, or a nation. Stigma can result from a lack of knowledge about how COVID-19 spreads. People might feel a need to blame or struggle to cope with fears about disease and death.
Stigma hurts everyone by creating more fear or anger — feelings misdirected towards people instead of toward the disease causing harm. Stigma can allow myth and rumor to gain traction.
People can fight stigma by offering social support. Counter stigma by learning and sharing facts. Communicating the facts that viruses do not target specific racial or ethnic groups and how COVID-19 actually spreads can help stop stigma.
Any discrimination incident that may be motivated by another person’s race, color, disability, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity is considered a hate and bias incident. The act does not need to be a federal, state or local crime.
Whether it happened to you or someone else, we urge you to report the incident either online or by calling 1-844-924-2427 so the Oregon Department of Justice can track the incident. For emergency assistance, dial 911.
These incidents can cause fear and anxiety in all of us.
Anyone who needs support can call the Multnomah County Mental Health Call Center any time of day or night. Services are free and interpretation services are available for non-English speakers. Just dial 503-988-4888 or 800-716-9769.
It is up to all of us to make sure that everyone feels welcome, supported and safe in our community.