New COVID-19 study offers ways to slow down spread in San Diego’s Latino community

SAN DIEGO — A new Chicano Federation and UC San Diego study titled “Perceptions of Contact Tracing among San Diego Latinos” analyzes the impacts of COVID-19 on San Diego’s Latino community.

“[We are] really educating people about contact tracing, what it is and why it is so important to participate,” said Nancy Maldonado, the Chicano Federation Chief Executive Officer.

The study interviewed 37 Latinos in San Diego, living in zip codes with the highest rates of COVID-19 positive cases and asked about their biggest barriers and perceptions of facilitators from the county. One common response was the dire need for more Spanish speakers.

“More specifically, [communication] in a way that’s linguistically and culturally appropriate in Spanish and messaging that’s going to resonate with community members,” Maldonado said.

Latino residents make up nearly two-thirds of San Diego County’s COVID-19 cases and nearly half of the deaths, although only 34% of county residents identify as Latino.

“One of the things that we found from this report is that most people really didn’t understand what contact tracing was, and obviously there’s a mistrust in the community and not wanting to pick up the phone and not wanting to talk to someone to answer personal questions,” she said.

So how can the county gain trust among Latino residents? Maldonado said linking with well-known Latino organizations is key.

“They’ve partnered with the San Diego Latino Health coalition, which is a newly formed coalition to do the outreach to the Latino community, and that is a coalition of 10 different nonprofits here in San Diego that are already serving the community and already have that trust,” she said.

More report findings include emphasizing the importance of testing, tracing, and treatment to mitigate and contain the pandemic. Although the county has made major strides in hiring more bilingual contact tracers, the study shows that’s only the beginning.

There’s still a lot of work to be done,” Maldonado said. “I don’t think that we need to give up, but for the time being, it is really our responsibility for COVID-19 and for us in getting these infection rates down.”

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