We are all witnesses to a once in a lifetime life event. The Coronavirus pandemic turned our lives upside down and impacted us in so many ways. On the eve of the third-year anniversary of Con Confianza y En Comunidad, we are reflective of all the struggles, the loss of loved ones, and perseverance and accomplishments of our communities in that span of time.
Across the world, government agencies scrambled to mount a response and businesses and public places shuttered their doors. Communities were bombarded with information—information they had to sift through to find credible sources to protect themselves and their loved ones. From the very first news reports of people infected with the COVID-19 virus, Latinos in King County’s Public Health Department responded quickly to the very first calls from community leaders. As the virus quickly spread and the loss of life increased, community members shared stories of families and individuals who were deeply affected by COVID-19. From those early meetings with Latino leaders, the newly created King County Latinx Community Response team brainstormed ways to create a direct channel with Latino leadership across King County.
In early May 2020, Con Confianza y En Comunidad was born.
Con Confianza was envisioned as a community led space were community members, community leaders and organizations could receive direct and accurate information about the COVID-19 virus. Since misinformation was directed at Latinos, Con Confianza y En Comunidad was the place to receive the latest data on the virus and resources such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and communication and technical support from the County.
For Latinos in King County, several issues were challenges in the early days of the pandemic:
- Isolating in a multi-generational household because of physical limitations
- Misinformation was prevalent; people were told masks were ineffective and vaccines caused sterility
- Digital literacy: some household didn’t have knowledge of web-based content
- Materials with COVID-19 information were not available in Spanish
- When their children got sick, parents working outside the home struggled with childcare
- Once infected with COVID-19, many community members were out of a job or had no income. Others felt the pressure to work and run the risk of getting sick. With the shortage of PPE, people had to go to work but didn’t get masks; some people reported outbreaks among entire teams of co-workers.
- PPE like hand sanitizer and masks, were hard to get.
For the Latinx Community Response Team, it was crucial to repeat the message of handwashing and masks, avoiding big groups, and countering misinformation.
When people couldn’t access much needed PPE due to web-based limitations, the team and the Community Navigators, worked with warehouse sites located in SODO (a neighborhood in South Seattle) and Kent to locate and submit orders for individuals. They gave people the option of getting PPE delivered to organizations they were connected to or have it shipped to their homes. When the first vaccine was released in December 2020, the team worked with staff from trusted Community Based Organizations (CBOs) to help monolingual Spanish speakers get access to vaccination without needing to schedule online.
Experts at Con Confianza meetings were key in building trust with Latinos. Particularly, Dr. Julian Perez, a physician at SeaMar, and Dr. Helen Stankiewicz Karita, an infectious disease expert with the University of Washington, helped ease people’s anxieties and concerns. One of Dr. Karita’s recorded featured in a video garnered 34,000 views, making it the highest-watched video in the Public Health YouTube channel.
Trust was built little by little through authentic connections and communicating with community leaders, CBOs, and community navigators; showing up to low-barrier events like health fairs; word of mouth; radio campaigns; and more. The team gained credibility with a wide range of partners that included the King County Promotores Network (KCPN), Centro Rendu, Promotores de South Park, Villa Comunitaria, and the Latinx Health Board.
Con Confianza y En Comunidad’s outreach included multiple social media platforms—such as Facebook, Instagram, the Public Insider Blog, radio, television, and the website. Staff also promoted and attend community events. This is important because some Latinos are hesitant to reach out to government agencies because of their immigration status or mistrust of government. For others, irregular work schedules and the inability to navigate the institutions are barriers to involvement.
The Latinx Community Response Team has shown remarkable resilience and commitment in supporting the Latinx community throughout the pandemic. Despite facing numerous obstacles, including limited access to healthcare and financial assistance, the Latinx Community Response Team has worked tirelessly to provide crucial resources and support to the Latinx community.
Additionally, they have collaborated on many health fairs and outreach events to raise awareness about COVID-19 and provide testing and vaccination services to underserved communities. Through their collective efforts, the team has made significant strides in addressing the health disparities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
The Latinx Community Response Team has continued to evolve. What started mainly as COVID-focused gathering now covers a broader set of community and health issues.
It is important to continue this work/relationships with community even in “normal” times, not to wait until there is an emergency. It is important to maintain and grow trust. In addition, it is critical that Public Health has a workforce that is reflective of the communities it is serving.
The Latinx Community Response Team is proud of all the work that former and current staff have done on behalf of Latino communities across King County. In this third year, we hope Latinos continue to make strides in reducing health disparities. We hope health and wellness isn’t a luxury that only those with wealth can afford but that it becomes accessible to all. In the spirit of “con confianza y en comunidad”, let’s continue to work together so that we can look back at this period in time where we rose to meet the challenges head on.