Hispanic leaders from across the state address COVID-19 in Latino communities

franklin pud meeting

When Mike Gonzalez, Public Affairs Manager at Franklin PUD was approached by the Benton-Franklin Health District to help get the word out to the Hispanic community about the benefits of wearing masks to fight the spread of COVID-19, he immediately sprang into action.

“Kathleen Clary-Cooke asked me to help reach our customer base that is 70 percent Hispanic, so we started talking about some strategies to reach that audience, “said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez brought up the idea of holding a press conference with Hispanic leaders who could talk directly to citizens about masking up. “It’s not an easy conversation to have. On one hand you have to be careful not to blame one group on the spread of COVID-19. But on the other, you want to challenge everyone to help stop the spread. In the Hispanic community more than 80 percent work outside their home. Many are in essential jobs like agriculture or they work inside big box stores, grocery stores or the packing plants that help feed our country. So there’s a reason many are getting the virus. I really wanted to dispel the feeling that Hispanics in our community were somehow ignoring COVID 19 warnings,” said Gonzalez.

“We’re reaching out in hopes of finding more ways to collaborate to stop the spread of the virus and allow our community to reopen,” said Kathleen Clary – Cooke with the Benton-Franklin Health District.

On Monday evening the media and more than 40 people gathered at the Farmers Market in the heart of Pasco to hear Hispanic community leaders speak about the importance of wearing a mask and social distancing to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Speakers addressed the crowd in English and Spanish. Many attendees were business owners desperate to open their stores.

Speakers included:

  • Pasco Mayor Saul Martinez.
  • Raul Garcia, an ER Doctor in Pasco and current Gubernatorial candidate.
  • Frank Valle, Treasurer of the Latin Business Association of Pasco and business owner in Pasco
  • Alex Ybarra WA State Legislator in Grant County
  • Ofelia Bredt, Sgt. Of Arms at the Tri-Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Gabriel Portugal, President of the Downtown Pasco Authority.
  • Amy Person from the Benton-Franklin Health District
  • Angeles Ize, an Epidemiologist at the Benton-Franklin Health District

The Hispanic community in the Tri-Cities has been hit particularly hard in the Tri-Cities. Half of all COVID-19 cases are Latinos. It’s why getting the message out that wearing a mask is so critical.

“Wearing a mask is not just part of the uniform you wear at work and take off when you get home. It’s something that we wear to protect our families. Wearing a mask can reduce the spread of droplets. Which is one of the ways COVID-19 can be transmitted. We could be at our peak if we continue to wear masks and stay physically distanced,” said Dr. Amy Person, Director of the Benton-Franklin Health District.

“The people standing here can all make it happen. We just need to give a shot and give it a try. Make sure you’re talking to people about this. Make sure we’re talking to them in their language and culture, so they get it because we can defeat this,” said Alex Ybarra, Washington State Representative from Grant County.

“We have seen an unprecedented event and I’m here to educate the public so panic and fear doesn’t set in. We beat this virus by having a great immune system and protecting ourselves. This virus is out everywhere and we can help health care personnel by protecting ourselves,” Dr. Raul Garcia, a candidate for governor and head of the ER at Lourdes hospital in Pasco.

“We want to make it clear. This is not to pinpoint any one group of people. We are here simply to assist, educate and inform,” said Pasco’s Mayor Saul Martinez.

To hear all the speaker go the city of Pasco’s Facebook page and click on this link.

For more information on fighting COVID-19 visit www.bfhd.wa.gov.