Hispanic community leaders: More outreach needed for COVID education

Veronica Salcedo, a journalist with Nashville Noticias, and a volunteer distribute personal protective gear at a drive through community event. (Photo: Dulce Torres Guzman/Tennessee Lookout)
Veronica Salcedo, a journalist with Nashville Noticias, and a volunteer distribute personal protective gear at a drive through community event. (Photo: Dulce Torres Guzman/Tennessee Lookout)

With COVID-19 disproportionately affecting members of Tennessee’s Hispanic community, leaders say there’s a need for greater education on preventing the spread of the virus.

Hispanic organizations have been central in helping government officials reach local Hispanic communities. 

Journalist Veronica Salcedo is often contacted through Facebook and asked to visit impacted areas to hand out personal protective equipment. Long lines of cars patiently waiting their turn as family members  and workers ask for masks for themselves and extended family members. 

Veronica Salcedo, a journalist with Nashville Noticias, distributes personal protective gear at a drive up event. (Photo: Dulce Torres Guzman/Tennessee Lookout)
Veronica Salcedo, a journalist with Nashville Noticias, distributes personal protective gear at a drive up event. (Photo: Dulce Torres Guzman/Tennessee Lookout)

Salcedo makes small talk with people in each vehicle and learns that just about everyone in the Hispanic community knows someone who’s been affected.

“Wherever we go, people come to us for their masks and we’ve given out food to families without means,” said Salcedo, who works with Nashville Noticias, an online news outlet targeted to Spanish speakers.

In Nashville, Hispanic people account for 29.4 percent of those testing positive for the virus and in Memphis, the rate is 34 percent. 

The pandemic has ravaged the Hispanic community and local government has attempted to prevent the spread of infection, but numerous issues have delayed communication efforts due to the reliance on local organizations

“They seem to be passing the ball,” said Yuri Cunza, president of the Nashville Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. 

Cunza says   the Hispanic population needs more information. Masks aren’t enough, he says, adding   the virus is being spread in households and families need tools  on prevention. 

“There’s a gap that needs to be bridged regarding communication and outreach to the community,” said Cunza.

Yuri Cunza (Photo: Facebook)
Yuri Cunza (Photo: Facebook)

Fabian Bedne, a representative of the Nashville mayor’s office, says the trouble with adjusting local news is that the diverse Latino community can often speak more than one native language and is a community that has only recently established itself in Tennessee, which means this is all new territory. 

“Latinos are not all the same, immigrants are not all the same. Whatever plan we concoct has to include a wide variety of solutions,” said Bedne. 

Fabian Bedne (Photo: Facebook)
Fabian Bedne (Photo: Facebook)

Tennessee’s Hispanic community had primarily received news in Spanish from television, such as the Spanish news channels Univision and Telemundo, but according to Pew Research Center, the internet had begun to rival television, especially when it comes to local news. 

Nashville Noticias has effectively reached the Hispanic community through social media and has concentrated their efforts on educating the local community on COVID-19. Individual community members have risen to aid the struggling Hispanic community and have provided the donations that Nashville Noticias redistributes to affected families and oftentimes delivers straight to their homes.  

“The Hispanic people responded, such as businesses, and families helped other families suffering from covid,” said Salcedo. 

Bedne holds press releases to keep organizations updated with news to be distributed to the local community but says Facebook has become a strong medium for sharing local news due to its use in communicating with family members in other countries. 

Other issues include the Hispanic community’s shaky trust in the government, which can mean that officials don’t know how to approach the local community and end up relying on local organizations. 

“With new Americans trust is a big deal,” said Bedne.