Friday, August 28, 2020

Public Health Pledges Support for Latinx Community, Assures it Won't Ask About Documentation Status

Posted By on Fri, Aug 28, 2020 at 9:44 AM

click to enlarge Health Officer Teresa Frankovich
  • Health Officer Teresa Frankovich
Humboldt County Public Health issued a statement of support for the local Latinx community — whic h has experienced a disproportionate impact form COVID-19 — and pledging that its contact investigators will not ask people about their "documentation status."

According to the statement, the Latinx community makes up about 12 percent of Humboldt County's population but accounts for 40 percent of local confirmed COVID-19 cases. Statewide, nearly 60 percent of confirmed cases and 47 percent of deaths have been recorded in Latinx people, who account for about 40 percent of California's population. (For more on the disparity, see our coverage from last month.)

The Public Health statement indicates these disparities stem from everything from differences in access to healthcare, insurance and occupations, as well as language barriers.

"Housing is another factor for people who, for economic or cultural reasons, live in crowded conditions and with extended, intergenerational family members," the statement reads. "This results in increased risk for exposure to COVID-19 and other underlying health problems. For some immigrant communities, fear of deportation and language preference may be added layers of stress and barriers to seeking treatment. Racism and xenophobia on their own have enormous negative impacts on public health outcomes and fears of racist treatment and deportation compound that impact for people of color and immigrant communities."

The statement goes on to note that state law and a local ordinance prohibit local agencies from sharing information with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and pledges that Public Health contact investigators tasked with finding people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 in an effort to limit the virus' spread will not ask people about their immigration or documentation status.

"Nobody should be afraid to seek health care," reads the statement. "Health care providers and other government agencies should not be sharing information with or otherwise coordinating with ICE, when serving that community. ... During a health crisis such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, trust is critical for people to seek out the help they need including access to testing and health care. Humboldt County Public Health supports policies and practices that help promote trust and equity for all members of our community."

In partnership with Centro de Pueblo, the Latino Community Providers’ Network and the Humboldt County Office of Education, Public Health will be hosting a Spanish language town hall meeting from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Monday.

For more information, see the full statement from Public Health copied below:


Public Health issues statement in support of Latino community
‘People who are contacted as part of Public Health investigations related to COVID-19
will not be asked about their documentation status’

Recent news articles have discussed the fact that Humboldt’s Latino community has suffered disproportionately from COVID-19. This is true in California as a whole, and it is true in Humboldt County. According to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), Hispanics/Latinos make up 12 percent of the Humboldt County population but are approximately 40 percent of all confirmed COVID-19 cases. In California, 59 percent of confirmed cases and 47 percent of deaths are Hispanic/Latino, while representing 40 percent of the state’s population, according to estimates based on U.S. Census Bureau data.

A paper from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration states that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the reasons for these disparities among this group and other people of color include unfair differences in access to the things that keep people healthy. For example, this group is more likely to be employed in essential work settings, such as food service or agriculture, where telecommuting is not an option and they’re more likely to be exposed to COVID-19. Access to health care may be limited due to lack of insurance, because they are unable to take time off from work or the services are not provided in their preferred language. Housing is another factor for people who, for economic or cultural reasons, live in crowded conditions and with extended, intergenerational family members. This results in increased risk for exposure to COVID-19 and other underlying health problems.

For some immigrant communities, fear of deportation and language preference may be added layers of stress and barriers to seeking treatment. Racism and xenophobia on their own have enormous negative impacts on public health outcomes and fears of racist treatment and deportation compound that impact for people of color and immigrant communities.

Several laws are in place to help build trust for immigrant communities. California’s Values Act or SB54, prohibits local and state agencies from cooperating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding undocumented individuals who have committed minor offenses. In addition to this state law, Humboldt County’s sanctuary ordinance, established by the passing of Measure K in 2018, provides added security for undocumented residents in the county.

In March, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ stated that seeking testing, treatment or prevention services for COVID-19 would not be used against immigrants in a public charge test. Nobody should be afraid to seek health care. Health care providers and other government agencies should not be sharing information with or otherwise coordinating with ICE, when serving that community.

Humboldt County Public Health provides services in both English and Spanish. Additionally, we want the community to know that people who are contacted as part of Public Health investigations related to COVID-19 will not be asked about their documentation status. During a health crisis such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, trust is critical for people to seek out the help they need including access to testing and health care. Humboldt County Public Health supports policies and practices that help promote trust and equity for all members of our community.

Together with community partners such as Centro del Pueblo, the Latino Community Providers’ Network and the Humboldt County Office of Education, we are pleased to invite the community to a Spanish language town hall about COVID-19. This will be an opportunity to get informed about COVID-19 and ask questions about schools, re-openings and how to stay healthy.

For community members seeking local information about COVID-19 in Spanish, please call the Joint Information Center at 707-441-5000.

Additional information and resources can be found at the CDPH website www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/OHE/Pages/COVID-19-Get-Help.aspx and protectingimmigrantfamilies.org/, a partnership of the National Immigration Law Center and the Center for Law and Social Policy.

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Thadeus Greenson

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