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Hello Idaho: Tackling increased coronavirus numbers among Hispanics and the rippling impacts

Although they make up only one quarter of Canyon County's population, 38% of the coronavirus cases are within the Hispanic population.

BOISE, Idaho — The Treasure Valley has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Hispanic population in Canyon County has a disproportionate share of cases.

Although they make up only one quarter of the county's population, 38% of the COVID-19 cases are within the Hispanic population.

"Since the pandemic in March, we have really been pretty busy working with the governor's office translating the information coming out on the stages we're in of reopening," executive director of the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs Margie Gonzalez said. "We've been involved with the schools reopening, with the board of education and the governor's task force."

Ensuring Hispanic families have the information they need about the virus has been the most important priority.

"We were really able to tap into our partnership with healthcare professionals that were bilingual and go on the radio station in our own language and tell the families what the virus was, safety measures," Gonzalez said. "Since then, we have put together some videos that have gone out statewide."

ICHA's videos show how to properly wear a mask and how to social distance, which can be difficult with historically large Hispanic families.

Other factors causing increased COVID-19 cases in the Hispanic population are the cost and availability of tests.

"I know that within our Hispanic population, the insured number of families was already a concern before the pandemic," Gonzalez said. "In order for someone to get tested for the virus, the cost can run anywhere from $100 to $200."

ICHA now has a resource directory, online and in physical copies, to let families know where they can get assistance, including crisis care.

After schools closed, many families were faced with numerous hardships. In some families, both parents were working full-time. Some children had a language barrier and needed an adult to help them with their homework.

In more serious cases, several young children attempted suicide, according to Gonzalez.

"I sat on the governor's task force because I think we need to pay attention to all communities, all children across the board," she said. "I know that our Hispanic children have already lagged behind academically and so this is something that we're really paying attention to as the schools start to reopening."

Bilingual healthcare providers, Spanish radio stations and the Community Council of Idaho are doing all they can to inform the Hispanic population. There are also ways other community members can get involved.

"The more we put this information out and any offer we get in our office, if it means putting information or messages out like what we're doing today, is important," Gonzalez said. "I think the more people that see it, word of mouth gets around, and more people are interested in 'How can we help?'"

You can access the ICHA resource directory by clicking here.

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