Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce’s online Game Changers conference

Panelists at the WRCC's Game Changer's conference on day two.

WORCESTER — Four community leaders spoke on a panel at the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce’s online Game Changers conference Tuesday, focused on Worcester’s “equity agenda.”

Panelists Dr. Mattie Castiel, Fred Taylor, Ryan Flynn and Stephanie Williams each spoke on issues in diversity and equity before answering questions in the Q&A portion of the event.

Day two of the conference centered on equity in the city, as panelists discussed inclusivity challenges Worcester faces and the programs in place to fix such issues.

Castiel and Taylor also received awards from the Chamber in yesterday’s conference event for being equity “game changers” in the city.

Castiel, commissioner of health and human services for the city, presented striking statistics on the gap in vaccinations between white residents and Black and Latino residents in Worcester.

As of May 17, 49.1% of Worcester residents had received their first COVID-19 vaccine shot, but a map alongside the statistic showed a majority of those vaccinated live in predominately white parts of Worcester.

Percentage of vaccinated Worcester residents with corresponding maps.

Communities of color made up most of the population most affected by COVID, according to Castiel, who said 12.3% of the city’s total population has had COVID-19, with 11.6% of the Black community and 15.5% of the Latino community contracting the virus.

Castiel said the city’s health and human service’s mobile vaccination clinic, through a task force created to help marginalized communities, has administered over 16,000 vaccines to over 11,000 residents. Of that number, 72% of residents were BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People of Color), with 36% being Latino, 20% Black and 9% Asian.

Demographics served by Worcester's health and human service's mobile vaccination clinic.

“Most of you probably talk about what some positive things are that have happened through COVID, and it’s truly been the collaboration of different organizations to meet the needs of our community,” Castiel said.

Pandemic shines light on inequities in eduction

The pandemic shined a light on inequity in not only healthcare, but education as well.

Flynn, who serves as the director of affiliate network growth and strategy at the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, emphasized how students of color are underserved in education, especially through the pandemic.

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