New Orleans officials say COVID-19 disproportionately affecting Hispanic and Latino community

Updated: May. 20, 2020 at 8:48 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - New Orleans Health Department Director, Jennifer Avegno, M.D., says once the city started its mobile testing program last month, they carefully examined patient data and compared it with their healthcare partners. Avegno says it quickly became clear that the Latino community is seeing much higher Covid-19 infection rates than the rest of the population.

“In fact, the positive case rate for Latinos that we have seen at these sites is more than 5 times that of non-Latinos in our region. This is a community-wide problem and a cause for great concern,” Avegno said.

That’s why the City has formed a task force to address the problem.

“What we are hearing from the Hispanic community, bottom line, there’s a lot of fear about getting tested for COVID and receiving treatment,” said New Orleans City Council Vice President Helena Moreno. “We think that no one should have to suffer in the shadows, so, we want to ensure that everyone feels welcome and has access to testing and treatment.”

The City says it realized there’s a need for increased outreach to the Hispanic community and a need to deploy more testing for underserved communities.

“One of the reasons that we are increasing testing is because we recognize that there is fear, as well as a lack of access and barriers of that, have prevented our people from coming to get tested,” said New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell.

St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church on Canal Street will offer free testing Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

“It is important that you trust us. I will be here, you know how we work with all of you, we keep your information private, we respect your own situation, you don’t have to mention what kind of situation you are living at,” said Father Sergio Serrano, Hispanic Apostolate.

Leaders are also urging the Hispanic community to wear masks.

“A lot of the immigrants we have in the city do not have access to government benefits, the stimulus package, food stamps, it is not available to them, so, they don’t have a choice but to go to work and there is a huge significant number of people who are getting infected with the virus in the community, they’re getting infected at home, why? Because relatives are going to work and coming back home with the virus,” said Martin Gutierrez, COO of Catholic Charities.

“You can and you should get tested for Covid-19. It is free. It is safe and it doesn’t hurt. Your immigration status does not matter. You will not be required to provide an I.D.,” said Avegno.

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