It is almost impossible for most people in the U.S. and the world to not know what COVID-19 or coronavirus is by now. With only a month to go before the year ends and already over 60 million cases of coronavirus globally, 2020 will be remembered as the chaotic COVID-19 year.
The U.S. is now experiencing a new wave that is expected to be the worst yet with the cold winter months approaching. Hospitals are already overwhelmed by how many cases they are receiving.
“We have not even come close to the peak, and as such, our hospitals are now being overrun,” stated Dr. Michael Osterholm, a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s Covid task force.
What we know about COVID-19 is rapidly changing as it is still a new virus. Many people who have caught it don’t know that they have it because they are asymptomatic. The proportion of asymptomatic COVID-19 infected people is substantial, and as these people continue to socialize, the number of cases will continue to increase.
“What America has to understand is that we are about to enter Covid hell,” Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center of Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said in an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Alley” recently.
While headlines are swamping the internet about coronavirus and U.S. News stations are constantly warning their viewers about the virus, there are still some people in the world who do not understand it even exists.
Many Mexican indigenous peoples or farm workers who do not speak English and are living in the United States were only able to learn about coronavirus from the radio.
According to the Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project (MICOP), a group that runs the radio station Radio Indígena 94.1 FM and helps indigenous families in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in California, roughly 20,000 people from southern Mexico live in the area and most of them are farmworkers who do not speak English.
It was in 2014 that Radio Indigena was created as an arm of MICOP in order to provide indigenous Mexican farmworkers with information about labor rights and health programs in their own native languages.
When coronavirus first hit the U.S. this past spring, Radio Indígena hosts were among the very first people to successfully explain the virus to indigenous Mexican farmworkers living in Ventura County. Bernardino Almazán, a producer for the station who previously used to work picking cilantro, recently introduced an episode that was all about the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What’s up, friends? Greetings to everybody tuning in to Radio Indígena 94.1 FM. In the studio, it’s (me) your long-time friend Bernardino Almazán. I invite you to stay with us because in the studio we have Dr. José Navarro, who has all updated information about Covid-19 and the current health alerts. He will also tell us about a coronavirus vaccine that could soon be ready. So stay tuned to us here on Radio Indígena 94.1 FM,” said Almazán on air.
The station, which broadcasts 40 hours of original shows in Spanish and the indigenous languages of Mixteco, Zapoteco, and Purépecha, has since expanded to FM radio, iOS, and Android apps and has a call-in number.
Arcenio López, executive director of MICOP, said Radio Indígena has been vital to informing indigenous communities in Ventura County about Covid-19.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), farmworkers face a particular risk of infection from being in close contact with one another in fields, in shared housing or transport, and because of limited access to clean water for hygiene.
The CDC has alarmingly found that people who identify as Latinx are four times as likely to be hospitalized than White people.
In Ventura County, which is California’s Central Coast county and has about 850,000 people, Latinos make nearly 45% of the population. Coronavirus is disproportionately sickening among U.S. Latinos.
Dr. Gil Chavez, who co-chairs California’s Covid-19 testing task force has said to CNN, “Latinos have some of the known factors for having really increased cases and having more bad cases than other members of the population. We have very high rates of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and some of the immunocompromised conditions (like) obesity (and) smoking.”
Johns Hopkins University has found that racial and ethnic information is only available for about 35% of all deaths in the United States, but even in that small percentage, it has shown that the Latino community is unevenly impacted by the coronavirus in some regions like the West.
“It would be ideal that everyone learns English, but the reality is that there are people that would never learn English and there are people who have just arrived to this country,” López said. “All of them deserve to have vital information in their native language, it’s a basic human right.”