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Pandemic disproportionately impacts Latino families

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S 10 COVID-19 & LATINO COMMUNITY

JANESVILLE (WKOW) -- Disparities continue in the fight against COVID-19 in our communities.

Across the U.S., 32.3 percent of all cases of the coronavirus are among the Hispanic/Latino population, according to CDC data. But the latest Census numbers show that community is only 18.5 percent of the overall population.

That disparity is reflected in local cases, too. As of Monday, July 27 in Rock County, Latinos make up 31 percent of all COVID cases, though health officials say they're only 9.1 percent of the overall population in the county.

The county's epidemiologist says there's been a shift in trends in July, with more cases confirmed in the Hispanic/Latino population. They're testing positive at 12.7 percent. It's a rate two times higher than the non-Hispanic population at six percent. This means the Hispanic population could be at a higher risk for getting sick.

"I think it's because many of them don't have access to health insurance, so they've been without a checkup for a long time. So since this pandemic hit, they were not fully aware of their health conditions," said Ginna Isunza,
YWCA Rock County's Immigrant Outreach Program Director.

Isunza has been working with Rock County's immigrant community throughout the pandemic. She says she's heard from some who are afraid to go to the hospital or get tested and others who haven't been able to understand the information shared by health officials about how to stay safe.

"The language is a huge barrier for them too, but also the information that was out there, it wasn't very accessible for them," Isunza said.

The families she's worked with are also significantly impacted by job losses or reduced work hours because of pandemic closures. Many going through the immigrant process are not eligible for unemployment or other benefits like food stamps, so they're left with few options.

"So they really were coming to us asking, what can we do, how can we, you know, bring food to our table," she said.

YWCA recently created an immigrant relief fund, aiming to help at least 72 families who are struggling right now. 21 of them have at at least one case of COVID in their family.

The goal of the online fundraiser is to bring in $10,000 to pay for things like rent, utilities and healthcare. Click here to donate. The organization also got a donation of $8,000 from Faith Lutheran Church to share food and gas gift cards earlier in the year.

Meanwhile, the health department in Rock County is working to reach the Latino community with Spanish-language education campaigns and bilingual nurses who can work with people one-on-one if they have COVID questions.

Public health officials tell 27 News many of the Hispanic community members who have tested positive have worked in manufacturing plants, so they're talking with employers to help them stop the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.

Right now, free testing is scarce in Rock County, which doesn't have a large, free test site like the Alliant Energy Center in Madison. Community Health Systems in Beloit does offer low-cost testing options, but Isunza says that's still difficult for some who are fearful.

"I receive calls every day and people don't want to get tested they're scared," she said.

She's hoping her fund will bring in enough money to help even more people still struggling right now.

The American Heart Association recently released results of a survey finding half of Black and Hispanic Americans fear going to the hospital during a heart attack or stroke, because they fear contracting COVID-19.

You can read more on that here.

Jennifer Kliese

Weekend Anchor and Reporter, 27 News

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