Dr. Elizabeth Velazquez opened the doors to Gutierrez Deli, the Mexican grocery and sandwich shop in Covington. She knew she could reach Spanish-speaking North Kentuckians here.
She gave a flyer to a grocer and asked if he could share it with his customers. How people can prevent the spread of COVID-19 was described in Spanish. Velazquez, a family doctor at St. Elizabeth Healthcare, saw the disease disproportionately affect the Latino community. She visited the grocery store, Spanish-language laundry mats, and churches in northern Kentucky as part of the hospital’s plan of action to slow the spread of the virus.
According to the Northern Kentucky Department of Health, Latinos accounted for 20% of COVID-19 cases in the area in July. That’s disproportionate to the number of Latinos living in northern Kentucky. In Boone, Kenton, and Campbell counties, Latinos make up between 2% and 4% of the county’s population.
In early August, the percentage of Latino COVID-19 cases dropped to 15% of the total.
Across the river, the Latino population in Hamilton County is 3.6%, but the Latino COVID-19 number makes up 7% of the cases there. In Butler County, Latinos make up 13% of COVID-19 patients but only 5% of the total population.
The cause of the inequality, Velazquez said, is complex.
“I don’t want people to think, ‘Oh, the immigrants bring the virus.’ That’s not the case, “she said.” These are people who have lived here for decades.
When society shifted from home to work to slow the spread of the coronavirus, many Latino people in northern Kentucky didn’t have that option, Velazquez said. She has had COVID-19 patients working in restaurants, poorly ventilated warehouses, and places where overtime is often mandatory.
Giovanna Alvarez, director of the Su Casa Hispanic Center in Roselawn, said the same goes for Latino people in southwest Ohio and for many Latinos in the United States.
“You cannot afford to lose your job,” said Alvarez.
Systemic racial and ethnic prejudice in the United States creates a variety of health problems for people of color. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention establish:
- Some racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to be uninsured than non-Hispanic whites.
- Many other factors can limit access to health care for these groups, such as: B. lack of transport, childcare or the opportunity to take time off.
- Communication and language barriers, cultural differences between patients and providers, and historical and current discrimination in health systems can cause these differences.
It is not uncommon for Latinos and Blacks to have jobs that fall into the “essential worker” categories and provide services that need to continue during the pandemic.
And this is how COVID-19 spreads.
“We know (cases) occur in clusters in the workplace,” said Valazquez. She added that she had fewer COVID-19 patients when employers mandated face masks and introduced socially distant labor standards.
Velazquez found it difficult to explain to her patients why they had to stay home if they had mild symptoms such as a cough or a mild fever. Some of them have never missed a day at work. Sometimes they don’t have paid sickness jobs, Velazquez said, which compounded the problem.
To help the Latino community, Velazquez said employers must mandate masks and use social distancing methods in the workplace.
Spread the word, offer help
The other problem Velazquez faced: directing the COVID-19 advice to Spanish speakers.
“We were bombarded with the message to stay home, stay safe,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if this news reached a Spanish-speaking audience.”
Velazquez and a group of doctors set up a task force to find out how to reach Spanish-speaking northern Kentuckians. They filmed informational videos in Spanish, broadcast advertisements on the Spanish-speaking radio station, launched a COVID-19 hotline specifically for Spanish-speaking people, and visited community hubs such as the grocery store.
“All of that – I think it made a difference,” Velazquez said.
Alvarez said language barriers were widespread in Latino communities in the region. For many people she said, “Spanish is a second language.” English is her third. For example, Su Casa employees meet people in the Cincinnati area, listen to them and help them with the language.
Su Casa, an established Catholic charity program in southwest Ohio, has always served low-income Latino people and other immigrants in the area. Now, with the pandemic, these services have had to change and in some cases expand, officials said.
To communicate the need for social distancing, masks and more to Spanish-speaking people in the area, Catholic Charities’ David Taylor said, “We put an outdoor billboard on I-75. We shared it on social media. We have flyers distributed and phone sent calls and text messages. ”
Thanks to donations during the pandemic, Su Casa was able to help 100 families with rent and utilities. Employees deliver food and care packages to the most vulnerable. And the centre’s pantry has been modified so that people in need can drive through food and care packages instead of going inside.
Help lines have developed into appointment-based meetings with distancing and required masks. Classes that used to be in-person are now online. However, registration has decreased as many do not have laptops or access to the internet.
“The pandemic has exposed a digital divide,” Alvarez said.
Cincinnati Public Schools helps families in need with access to WiFi. According to Alvarez, communication can be difficult for some families with home virtual learning. “It will be a challenge for many families.”
Latinos in northern Kentucky also suffered economically, said Reid Yearwood, executive director of the Esperanza Latino Center in Covington.
“Many of these families were undocumented, unsuitable for the incentive, and fell through the cracks in other organizations,” Yearwood said.
The center has received $ 30,000 in grants from organizations in northern Kentucky and Cincinnati. The money went towards the families’ rent and utility bills, Yearwood said.
The pandemic has raised awareness of the needs of Latinos as well as blacks and other disadvantaged residents of the area, Alvarez said.
It is important that others understand and help as much as possible.
“Be patient. Be empathetic,” said Alvarez. “You cannot ignore the fact that people are suffering.”
Julia is the Northern Kentucky government reporter on the Report For America program. Anonymous donors are committed to meeting the local donor share of their grant-funded position at The Enquirer. If you would like to support Julia’s work, you can donate to her position as Report For America on this website or email your editor, Carl Weiser, at [email protected] to find out how you can fund their work.
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