Spanish translators needed in COVID-19 crisis

CLEWISTON — “As government officials across the country issue warnings about the dangers of the novel coronavirus, they are doing so predominantly in English. They’re potentially not reaching the millions of Spanish speakers in the U.S. who aren’t proficient in English to make sure they know how to stay healthy,” said Regina Gutierrez of Clewiston.

Thus, as the local numbers of confirmed cases of COVID-19 grow, residents are noticing that there is a large population of Spanish-speaking residents who have not been made aware of the social distancing guidelines, or recommendations to prevent transmission or limit the spread of the virus. While many of the official state and local press releases are issued in both English and Spanish, many of these residents don’t have television or internet access, or work long hours with limited or no exposure to this important information. The concern for the safety of this group of residents within our small communities has recently been voiced from multiple bilingual residents throughout Clewiston, LaBelle and Immokalee.

Pam Gonzalez posted on Facebook, “This post is in no way intended as racist or prejudiced. But, can one of our city officials address our Spanish population (in Spanish) about the severity of the coronavirus and the risks of not staying home? I must have spoken to about 14-15 single men today. But, their smiles never left their faces. Too many people are not taking this serious enough OR not understanding … I take precautions on the rare occasion that I am out. However, I go out of my way to approach them to tell them that they need to keep their distance from each other and stay home unless it’s a nec essity. I inform them to use sanitizer and wash their hands often throughout the day.”

Concerned citizens, like Ms. Gonzales, are working on ways to remedy this problem from both a grass-roots perspective as well as finding ways to get our local officials more involved.

“Thinking that its a good idea to create a Spanish version of What’s happening in LaBelle … ‘Que pasa Raza,’ I would need some help creating this page …. mostly to inform the Hispanic community of Important info… who’s in?” wrote JoeAnn Alaniz, referring to a Facebook group that disseminates local information. Ms. Alaniz and her mother, Nelda Cuellar, run the restaurant Paleteria La Victoria, in LaBelle, and have long been known to be active community organizers and helpers.

“Not having the information available for non-English speakers is dangerous for all of us,” said Elias Herrera of Immokalee. “If you are bilingual, we need your help! If you would like to help with these efforts, there are social media groups forming. Search for one that is serving your area and reach out, or you can form your own! There are many resources for the information but a lack of translators.”

For additional coronavirus materials in other languages, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s DC Print Resources page: cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/communication/factsheets.html.

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