Free COVID testing given to Latinx community in Portland

Oregon nonprofits and Legacy Health are taking on the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Latinx people.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Several community organizations and Legacy Health are working to provide free COVID-19 testing to at-risk populations within the Latinx community.

On Thursday, nonprofit Latino Network’s parking lot transformed into a drive-up testing site. A similar testing event is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 3.

“Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve seen a disproportionate impact on the Latinx community,” said Veronica Leonard, director of youth, education and wellness at Latino Network.

This week, the COVID-19 tracker for Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington, and Yamhill counties showed Hispanic and Latinx people made up 36% of regional cases, but only 11% of the population. White people made up 38% of cases and 72% of the population.

Leonard said these numbers are partially due to many Latinx people working frontline jobs that cannot be done remotely.

“They’re in the grocery stores, [they] are picking vegetables in our fields. [They] are basically allowing the rest of people who can work virtually continue to be fed,” Leonard said.

RELATED: Fields of fear: Oregon farmworkers lack safety net as pandemic threatens jobs, health

Multigeneration households grouped together also increase chances of spreading the virus.

To help reduce the risk of transmission, Latino Network teamed with Legacy Health to provide free COVID-19 testing.

“This is the work where it matters. This is where we really make a difference in our communities,” Legacy’s Dr. Nick Kashey said. “As a physician, this is one of the most professionally satisfying things I’ve done in a long time.”

For months, groups such as Latino Network and the Oregon Latino Health Coalition (OLHC) have distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars in food, rent and utility assistance for Latinx people impacted by the pandemic.

RELATED: Financial relief coming for agricultural workers in Oregon who are self-quarantining

For some Latinx people, particularly those who are undocumented, this familiarity with community organizations opens the door to otherwise inaccessible healthcare.

“This is definitely a place that is safe for the Latino community to come,” Josué Peña Juárez with the OLHC said. “Trust and confidence is the biggest thing. So once you have that relationship with a family, with an individual, I think that they’re more likely to get connected.”

People can register for Saturday’s free testing event online.

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