Northern Virginia state lawmaker calls for more bilingual contact tracers

A Northern Virginia state lawmaker is urging Gov. Ralph Northam to hire more bilingual contact tracers to assist with its coronavirus response.

In a letter to the governor, Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, D-Prince William, said she’s concerned that language barriers are resulting in cases being under-reported in Hispanic communities.

The Latino community accounts for 45% of Virginia’s coronavirus cases, Foy wrote, with that figure higher in Fairfax and Prince William counties. As a result, she asked Northam to ensure the same proportion of contract tracers are bilingual.

“While I commend the current availability of translated materials, I am very concerned that they are not reaching the communities that need them most,” Foy wrote.

“Thus, I write to request increased funding for outreach on Spanish-language radio, television and some internet sites.”

The Virginia Department of Health said it has more than 1,200 people working on case investigations and contact tracing. Of recent hires, 113 are bilingual and 66 speak Spanish.

Foy praised Northam for involving organizations that work for immigrant communities, like CASA, in the state’s COVID-19 response, while encouraging him to “expand on this success with other organizations that are providing individual case management to Latinx and other immigrant families, like Edu-Futuro.”

Health officials maintain contact tracing is crucial in preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

“This unprecedented time continues to require swift and coordinated responses to ensure the health and well-being of all Virginians, no matter their background or income level,” Foy wrote.

Foy, a Democrat, is running to succeed Northam as Virginia governor in next year’s November elections.

Sandy Kozel

Sandy Kozel is an anchor at WTOP. She came to WTOP after a long career as an anchor/correspondent with the Associated Press. She also worked in local radio in the Cleveland area — and in Buffalo, where she was an award-winning anchor and reporter with WGR Radio and entertainment reporter at WGRZ-TV.

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