Advocacy group shares ideas to better help immigrant communities impacted by COVID-19

Cases of COVID-19 are disproportionately impacting some D.C.-area Latino communities.

In Fairfax County, Virginia, for example, where the Latino population is 16.2%, Latinos make up 61.8% of COVID-19 cases.

“We’re definitely, sadly leading the charge in infection rates,” said Dr. Michelle LaRue, senior manager for Health and Human Services at CASA, an organization that advocates for immigrant communities.

“For instance, Langley Park, with ZIP code 20783, is the heart of the immigrant and Latino communities and where our headquarters is — it has the highest rates of the entire state of Maryland.”

Communities and jurisdictions large and small throughout the region are or will be seeing the same trend, according to LaRue.

“I think we’re going to see the same trend across the board — that Latinos have the highest rates of infection,” she said.

Citing examples of how the community might be better served, LaRue said eliminating language barriers is important.

Some of her recommendations include:

  • Pandemic-related information should be prepared and edited in multiple languages. “A straight translation oftentimes isn’t sufficient.”
  • Hotlines need appropriate language capacity staffing. “And each county, each city, each jurisdiction has its profile that they need to be making sure is being represented.”
  • Information should be shared in multiple ways and adapted to target groups within the community, such as seniors or households lacking internet access. “Vary the modalities and the languages.”
  • Resources need to be thoughtfully located. “Public transportation may not even be an option, so how do they get to the testing site?”

“Since our communities are the ones being highly affected by this pandemic, are we making sure testing sites are going up in these hot spots?” she asked rhetorically. “Because transportation often times is a barrier for low income and immigrant families.”

“As new initiatives are put into place, we need to make sure that they’re truly serving who we need them to service,” LaRue advised.

CASA’s Multilingual Health Information Lines can be reached in Spanish and English at 301-270-8432 and in French and English at 240-270-1318.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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