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For thousands of low-income residents in Sonoma County, pre-pandemic normal simply meant less misery

New COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are in decline, and pandemic restrictions are slowly being lifted.

People are once again hoping for a return to “normal” life, where they can gather freely, work in offices, enter restaurants without masks, and shake hands rather than bump elbows.

But for thousands of low-income residents in Sonoma County — many of them Latino and many of them undocumented immigrants — a return to normal will mean something different.

There won’t necessarily be more joy, just less misery.

“Normal was never good for our undocumented residents, our low-wage workers, and so we don’t want to go back to normal.” - Oscar Chavez, assistant director of Sonoma County Human Services Department.

Volumes of public health statistics continue to show that COVID-19 infections hit hardest in places that reflect the county’s long history of economic, ethnic and racial disparities.

Health advocates and county health officials say these “preexisting” inequalities are not going to disappear once public health restrictions are lifted.

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