Local Health Officials Find Increase in COVID-19 Cases in Latinos

Local News

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.- KREX 5/Fox 4 has learned from Mesa County Public Health Latino individuals in Mesa County make up for about 30 percent of COVID-19 cases counted in the county since March. Latinos make up about 15 percent of the county’s total population. Mesa County Public Health Director Jeff Kuhr feels this data is significant, and more needs to be done to address this.

“We may be seeing a surge with the Hispanic community because there are communication resources lacking on our end,” Kuhr said. “We’ve been talking lately about translating everything we have over to Spanish.”

There are some resources available in Spanish right now, such as the county’s current Phase 2 of reopening in Spanish text. Many of the resources available in Spanish on MCPH’s website link to the resources on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Website. The link provided here will take you to a page in Spanish of frequently asked questions about COVID-19 and resources available.

Este enlace lo llevará al sitio web del Departamento de Salud Pública de Colorado para obtener más información sobre COVID-19.

Back locally School District 51 houses the Western Colorado Migrant Education Program. The director of this program tells us there are about 100 students in this program from migrant families who rely heavily on agricultural work. He also tells us in total, about 25% of D51’s students are Latino or of Latino descent.

“It’s been hard for some of our families to find success in doing the distance learning model” said Tracy Gallegos. “A lot of our families are continuing to work even though we were in stay at home orders.”

Agriculture is an important industry in the Grand Valley and many of the workers are seasonal migrant workers from Mexico and Latin America. Child and Migrant Services in Palisade has been assisting migrant workers and immigrant families for over 60 years. It’s also providing to go meals and important healthcare information for the migrant community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The need to social distance and to protect themselves for some, it’s really a dilemma about working and given the fact they may face some unsafe conditions,” said director Karalyn Dorn, executive director.

Dorn added additional challenges have been presented about steady income for migrant workers after a spring freeze ruined much of Palisade’s crops for the season.

Tracy Gallegos at the Western Colorado Migrant Education Program feels COVID-19 spikes in the Latino community as a whole points back to a lack of education opportunities about the pandemic and a shortage of public health information.

“Many members of our ethnic, diverse communities are at a higher risk and I think that it has to do with access to public health, and access to resources,” Gallegos said.

Increasing this access is something Jeff Kuhr says Mesa County Public Health is currently working on.

“We need to get some things in place in order to be able to do some Spanish speaking only contact tracing.”

Contact tracing is a term for public health departments’ investigations of positive COVID-19 cases. This involves contacting and interviewing those who may have had close contact with that individual who tested positive for the novel coronavirus. This is an effort to expand COVID-19 testing and slowing the spread of the virus.

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