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Duke University experts discuss measures needed to protect, inform Latinx community of COVID-19

Posted June 11, 2020 1:08 a.m. EDT

Dr. Viviana Martinez-Bianchi (Duke University video photo)

— Experts from Duke University said more resources and health protections are important to protecting the Hispanic community from COVID-19.

Dr. Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, Rosa Gonzalez-Guarda and Dr. Gabriela Maradiaga Panayotti from Duke University were part of a media panel that answered questions about how the virus is affecting Hispanic communities. Statistics show that the Latinx (a gender-neutral neologism, sometimes used instead of Latino or Latina) has been disproportionately affected by the virus, and doctors point to the fact that many members of the community are essential workers.

“The Latinx community all over the country have often been essential workers,” said Dr. Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, a family medicine and community health associate professor. “So while the rest of the country did quarantine or was able to stay at home to flatten that curve that we were trying to do, the Latinx community went to work.”

Rosa Gonzalez-Guarda, a nursing associate professor, spoke about the needs of the Hispanic community including protection in the workplace, widely available testing and paid time off.

“This means not only providing masks and social distancing measures in the workplace, but putting pressure on business owners to provide paid sick leave so people don’t have to make the decision between going to work while they’re sick and potentially infecting others, or paying rent and providing food at home,” Gonzalez-Guarda said.

The panel also spoke about the lasting impacts on COVID-19 on the Hispanic community.

“People are afraid because their immigration status might be compromised,” Gonzalez-Guarda said. “They’re afraid about the possibility of having to pay bills, particularly if they don’t have insurance. It’s really uncovering some of the structural and fundamental drivers of health in this population that’s going to be critical for us to address as we continue to see a growth in this population in the future.”

The Duke Faculty members also answered questions to provide clear information on when to get tested, the impacts on children and how to prevent the spread.

Maradiaga Panayotti, an assistant pediatrics professor, ensures people that the infection and death rate for children with COVID-19 is low.

“As of last week, the CDC had only recorded about 20 deaths in cases of children under the age of 15,” Maradiaga Panayotti said.

She also encourages everyone to get tested at the sign of any symptom.

“The recommendation now is to test liberally,” Maradiaga Panayotti said.

Another concern the panel addressed was how to prevent spread within the home. Experts recommend isolating the sick person, using good hand washing, using separate garbage cans and having everyone wear a mask.

“This is very challenging,” Maradiaga Panayotti said. “Anybody who lives with any other person knows how much contact one has with each other. We are recommending a few basic things but also recognizing this can be hard. If possible, the person who is sick should be isolated in a separate room and a separate bathroom.”

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