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Some Latino households struggle as COVID surges in Central Falls

By January 13, 2022COVID-19

The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity. Click the orange play button above to hear the audio.

Ayres-Brown: How is this impacting the families that Progreso Latino works with?

Sierra: I would say it’s not necessarily about how it’s impacting families now — it just kind of continues to build on the previous impact. So we’ve seen just continuing concern about employment stability with the families that we work with. We get folks who are looking for financial support. In the past, we have supported via cash assistance.

And then, of course, economic circumstances continue to be dire. So, you know, COVID-19 prevents folks from being able to leave their home once they’re diagnosed. And if you’re dealing with a multi-generational family, you have several children, it makes it even harder if you’re in a position of a caretaker.

Ayres-Brown: I know with families, and you mentioned especially with multiple generations sometimes in the same home, it can be very hard when one person tests positive for COVID. Are you seeing any challenges with this, and do you feel there are sufficient resources for people to isolate after one person has a positive diagnosis?

Sierra: I think it is quite difficult, and I think it’s a combination of there being limited spatial and perhaps even communal resources to isolate certain members. But also it is cultural, right? So considering that our city is upwards of 60% Latino, we want to take care of our family members. We want to be there for them, even if that means that we are putting ourselves at risk or get sick in the process.

So even though the recommendation is to quarantine, isolate for a period of time, or to mask at home — you know, masking at home is probably the best recommendation. Because family members, especially if you’re the sole caretaker, you cannot stay away from your sick child. It’s really, really difficult.

So there might be a concern with, we can’t keep our kid or we can’t keep a parent in their individual room because there just isn’t the space — but also we want to make sure that person is taken care of. And so we’re seeing that it’s just kind of hard to overcome that cultural desire to want to be there for your loved one that’s not feeling well.

Ayres-Brown: There have been significant problems with access to COVID testing in Central Falls — last month, people having to wait in long lines in the cold to get tested. Members of the Rhode Island National Guard have now been put on the ground in Central Falls to help with testing. But beyond that, what other responses would be helpful to addressing this latest surge and its impact on families in Central Falls?

Sierra: That’s, I guess, where all of the energy is going right now, right? So how can we kind of mobilize to support our families and our community members? We know that the mayor is doing everything she can to kind of involve government and we have, you know, additional testing sites. We have an additional testing site on Broad Street that has a higher capacity, walk-in only — because we do see technological literacy as a barrier for folks to access testing in the first place.

And then beyond that, I think an additional resource that could be employed is figuring out how we can support our community in not feeling like they have to continue going about their day-to-day life. I know that there is a bit of an anxiety around — ‘The holidays just happened. I have to test as a requirement to return to work, but perhaps I’m feeling ill and I can’t get my test results back in time. So now my work is in jeopardy.’

So there is kind of this duality of we’re continuing at the pace of normal day to day life, but our circumstances to how we can operate within that are so vastly different. And they’re not working quite in tandem, right?

So if there was kind of a concerted effort of keeping people home, making sure that they were able to stay home confidently, and kind of slowing down the urge to get back to normalcy. I think that would be really helpful, in addition to providing more testing, providing more vaccination sites, providing more education, and reducing those barriers to tech. So that’s what I would say.

Ayres-Brown: Rosa Sierra, Wellness Project Manager at Progreso Latino in Central Falls, thanks so much for your time.

Sierra: You’re welcome. Thank you for having me.

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