Nashville targets outreach efforts to Hispanic community

(Photo: Getty Images)
(Photo: Getty Images)

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Nashville, Hispanics still make up 19.9% of positive cases.  

As of July 28, Nashville had 20,928 confirmed cases, with 189 active hospitalizations that have left ICU centers at a caution level. Recovered cases are at 15,956 while deaths are 190.

Although positive cases in the Hispanic community have gone down from 30% in June, 42.4% have not been classified by ethnicity.  

Rising cases have now created hotspots in central and North Nashville. Fabian Bedne, spokesperson for the mayor’s office, believes this is due to tourism but acknowledges that many Hispanics live in these areas and remain vulnerable.

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

Mayor John Cooper has partnered with several Hispanic organizations in an effort to address inequalities in these communities and help mitigate further spread of COVID-19. Recent efforts include educational outreach, working with local churches to provide testing centers and handing out personal protective equipment.

Efforts to reach the Hispanic community have centered around hiring Spanish speakers in order to improve contact tracing, improving testing events and connecting people with the necessary resources, according to Metro Public Health Department Spokesperson Brian Todd. 

In becoming aware of isolated families, more traditional efforts were implemented through phone calls and door-to-door community outreach through community organizations. 

So far, efforts have had varied success rates. 

“We have worked to address these barriers in an equitable way, and that is something we wish we had the capacity, funds, and structure to do sooner,” said Todd. “ However, this isn’t neglect. We had to essentially build a program for this from the ground up, started this building process in April, and we’ve come a long way since then. We know there are things we need to do faster and better, but that still doesn’t equate to neglect.”. 

“There is no one solution,” said Bedne, remarking that due to the diversity of the Hispanic population, state efforts have needed to be multi-faceted and flexible. 

In collaboration with the state, Conexión Americas has provided a Spanish-speaking hotline (615-340-5616) for families seeking information on COVID-19, has worked with Second Harvest to distribute food to families and has provided financial assistance.  

Despite these efforts, Conexion Americas spokesperson Andres Martinez said the need is greater than what the organization is capable of giving. 

 There’s a need for more federal and state assistance due to the overwhelming demand, said Martinez.

Many members of the Hispanic community work in essential occupations and have continued to work throughout the previous shutdowns, leaving them and the people they live with vulnerable to the virus.  

Positive cases in the Hispanic community have gone down from 30% in June but still account for almost 20%. Over 42% have not been classified by ethnicity. 

Several COVID-19 clusters have been tied to construction and commercial production/warehouse job sites, both prevalent occupations among Hispanics.

Todd says some construction cases have been connected to workers carpooling but there is difficulty in finding where the exposure occurs. Todd reports construction sites have “worked closely with epidemiologists to ensure safety plans are in place on site, that sites are testing their employees and that isolation and quarantine guidelines are followed.”

Federal assistance has been slow to reach Tennessee. 

Pandemic-EBT, a food-assistance program, remains one of the few resources available to  undocumented Hispanic families, but families have had difficulty applying for aid or have been denied for unknown reasons. 

Bedne said some people don’t understand that once symptoms have set in and tests have been conducted, the results may not come back for several days.

If you have doubt, you should stay home until the tests have come back negative, said Bedne. 

“The only thing we can do is control and limit the expansion of this virus, and the way to do this is to keep social distancing,” said Bedne.