Hispanics on the Colorado Springs take a look at website say they’re at better danger and lack medical care, Colorado Springs Information

COVID-19 continues to affect Hispanics more than any other ethnic group in El Paso County and across the state. This reflects their vulnerability due to their jobs and unequal access to health care, proponents say.

“We’re seeing higher than expected rates of infection in our Hispanic and Latin American communities,” said Michelle Hewitt, public health spokeswoman for El Paso County.

While Hispanics make up about 20% of the county’s population, they make up about 30% of local COVID cases, she said.

According to statistics from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 38% of the nearly 49,500 people who tested positive for the virus are Hispanic. Hispanics make up 22% of Colorado’s 5.7 million population.

One reason for the inequality could be that many Hispanics are frontline workers who may not have health insurance or access to medical care, said Julissa Soto, director of statewide programs for Servicios de la Raza, or Services for the People.

“There is a lot of health inequalities,” she said. “We have to meet people where they are, where they live and play, where everything seems familiar to them.”

Since April, her organization at the Southeast YMCA has been running a free weekly grocery giveaway for undocumented and other low-income residents. The program started with 25 families and has grown to 500 families per week.

In June, bilingual COVID testing was added by El Paso County Public Health as Spanish-speaking residents and undocumented immigrants looked for a place where they could feel comfortable and better understand the pandemic, Soto said.

About half of those who use the test site every week get positive results, she said. Typically between 15 and 20 people are tested each week, Soto said.

Cars line up in the YMCA parking lot and drive onto South Chelton Road every Monday at 10:30 a.m. to distribute and test the groceries, which start at 12 p.m.

Some who lined up to be tested last week feared they had contracted the virus. Others said they may have been exposed.

Susana Carreno’s 21-year-old daughter had lost her sense of taste and smell. Carreno said through a translator that she had gone to other clinics but was told she needed an appointment.

At the Servicios de la Raza site, no appointment is required and the test is free, Soto said.

Carreno’s daughter had quarantined herself in her room to avoid spreading the virus to her other five children. But the family was concerned because the daughter and her husband are the only ones with jobs.

“She needs a negative test to be able to work in a cell phone retail center again,” said Cindy Marroquin, program manager at Servicios de la Raza, who translated.

Carreno said her family was about to become homeless because their landlord wanted to evict them.

“She’s under a lot of stress,” said Marroquin. “This pandemic is insane, a very stressful time.”

Teens and young adults were sloppy with social distancing rules and covering their faces, Carreno said.

“Some people don’t think it’s true,” she said.

An Andrea Quiroz employee at a Colorado Springs fruit and vegetable packaging facility tested positive for COVID. Now all employees have to be tested.

The problem has affected her family of three enormously, she said as a marroquin.

“You have very little work. They pretty much only have rent money. “

Quiroz’s employer ceased operations and urged workers not to return until the company could find out who is infected and who is not.

Quiroz said she had no symptoms as she patiently waited in line to be tested.

“People don’t think it’s real,” she said.

Regarding the reasons Hispanics have higher infection rates, Quiroz said undocumented people who do not have the necessary papers to be in the United States will not receive unemployment benefits or government incentive money.

“There is a need; we have to go to work, “she said.

Some people just don’t care about the pandemic and the regulations, said Catalina Cholico. Her 13-year-old daughter was tested at the bilingual site a few weeks ago and received a negative result despite some symptoms.

“We’re not taking the right actions that we should be taking as a (Hispanic) community,” she said. “We’re in crowded places, around a lot of people, and we’re not wearing masks like we should.”

Cholico’s family of five took precautions before hearing the result of the daughter’s test because they were concerned, she said.

The daughter was quarantined in her room for more than a week.

“She went from her room to the bathroom and that was it,” said Cholico through Marroquin. “She was nervous about the test.”

Spanish speaking volunteers ask each driver if anyone in the car has symptoms or needs testing. The results will be returned in about a week, Marroquin said.

At last week’s event, El Paso County Public Health provided 320 Spanish and 100 English copies of a general COVID bulletin.

Access to information about the disease could be another reason Hispanics and Latinos are more likely to be infected with COVID, Marroquin said.

“There’s a lot of information out there and I don’t know if it’s available in Spanish,” she said, adding that the fact sheets should help.

“People are afraid of getting tested or going to the doctor and some have no papers so they fear ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is looking for them.”

Servicios de la Raza will reassess its ability to continue both food distribution and testing after Aug. 17, Soto said.

The grocery boxes include milk, meat, fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, tortillas, and other items donated primarily by the Colorado Springs Food Rescue & Care and Share Food Bank in southern Colorado.

Kenya Uparela said through Marroquin that she was grateful for the help in “these difficult times”.

She and her family were moving to Colorado Springs from Belgium when the pandemic hit and were unable to find a job or childcare. Her husband works and the family depends on savings to get through.

“We’re the ones who do the hard jobs, the cleaning, the farming,” Uparela said of Hispanics. “This kind of help is needed now and after the pandemic has ended.”

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