Byron Russell speaking at the Governor's press conference

Multicultural Outreach Focus of New State Subcommittee

The Utah COVID-19 Community Task Force is creating a new subcommittee to ensure that vulnerable and underserved communities receive important news and information about the current pandemic.

Gov. Gary Herbert announced the new subcommittee during his daily briefing on Thursday.

“These are uncertain and trying times for everybody, and all Utahns are feeling the pinch. But we have found with data that we have some more significant challenges with our minority groups,” Herbert said. “For some, it is language barriers, or it may be cultural barriers. We want to make sure they get the information they need to survive.”

Nubia Peña, the director of the Division of Multicultural Affairs, will chair the subcommittee. The subcommittee co-chairs will be Byron Russell, who is also the co-chair of the Utah Multicultural Commission, and Zee Min Xiao, a member of that commission. Additional members of the subcommittee will be announced soon.

Peña said her division has conducted a survey that can serve as a baseline for the subcommittee’s work. That survey (download PDF) showed that many minority, low-income and other underserved communities are facing additional challenges because of the pandemic. Those include concerns about basic needs, limited technological resources, and limited access to healthcare, among other financial and social issues.

A particular problem for these communities during this pandemic is the lack of access to translated materials. While the state has translated informational documents into more than a dozen languages, the data from the survey and the Health Department indicate they are not getting to the communities who need them.

“It will take all of us to ensure none of us are forgotten and we look forward to supporting our state leaders in advancing efforts that promote inclusion, equity, and human rights so that we emerge stronger from this crisis together,” Peña said.

Russell said the subcommittee would immediately tackle the most pressing issues identified by the survey. In doing so, they will be able to help slow the spread in communities that are currently being more impacted.

“While the COVID-19 virus can infect anyone regardless of nationality, income or creed, data is showing a greater impact on minority or low-income communities,” Russell said., co-chair for the Utah Multicultural Commission and the new subcommittee.