How One Charlotte Health Network Assists Latinx Communities Hit Hard By The Pandemic
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
North Carolina is seeing a surge of coronavirus cases, particularly among Latinos. Latinx people account for more than a third of the state's overall cases. The state's health officials are spending a half million dollars to partner with local groups in the community. Laura Brache of member station WFAE checked in with a health network in Charlotte that's using research and hands-on intervention to try to slow the disease's spread.
LAURA BRACHE, BYLINE: By trade, Christine Blyden is a labor and delivery nurse. She's dressed head to toe in protective gear.
CHRISTINE BLYDEN: But it's pretty much covering from neck to knee and down your arms, and then your gloves will go over this.
BRACHE: Blyden doesn't live in North Carolina. She's from Virginia and is volunteering at a COVID-19 drive-through site in Charlotte. She's working out of a big blue mobile health station on the southwest side of town, a COVID-19 hot spot.
BLYDEN: So then I put on the N95 under this, so this goes under. And then face shield or goggles and gloves. And that's pretty much it.
BRACHE: Federal health regulations didn't allow media interviews on-site, but many of the patients Blyden and her colleagues tested were Latino. And that's why this group is here.
KINNEIL COLTMAN: Hispanics and Latinos are more likely to live in multifamily, multigenerational households.
BRACHE: Kinneil Coltman is a senior vice president with Atrium Health, the organization hosting this testing site.
COLTMAN: They're more likely to carpool to work. And they're more likely to work in those industries where we've seen a lot of clustering, like construction, grocery stores, et cetera.
BRACHE: Every day, this unit moves to a different underserved neighborhood to provide free testing. They choose the location based on where the number of cases has spiked. Once someone gets to the testing site, social workers screen not only for symptoms but needs, like access to food, transportation and health services. Brisa Hernandez with Atrium says right there on the spot, a social worker can give them free cleaning supplies, food, masks and even a hotel room to quarantine in if they test positive for the coronavirus.
BRISA HERNANDEZ: We just need to recognize that some of it is going to be different, and we have to be comfortable and OK with that and, more importantly, ready to put the time and resources into it.
BRACHE: Community leaders in Charlotte have found that they need to tailor their resources to a Latino community that's culturally and linguistically different. The population here really began to grow in the last 20 years. So health organizations are partnering with those local leaders directly. Jose Hernandez-Paris is with the Latin American Coalition of Charlotte.
JOSE HERNANDEZ-PARIS: It's a good model to combine an organization as large as Atrium, which has a different source of funding, more steady larger amounts, with nonprofits who are community based like ours so that we can be more effective in this work. And that's what it's going to take.
BRACHE: To remove some barriers of care, Atrium Health doesn't require an appointment, an ID or insurance to get tested. At least one Spanish-speaking staff member is on-site. They've also shifted their labs workflow to prioritized testing for those who need rapid results. They also stay in touch with patients afterwards. Atrium's Brisa Hernandez says that's important to prevent someone who is infected from spreading the virus to others.
HERNANDEZ: What else do you need? How can we connect you? And we've started to make those connections to primary care. Some of them need additional masks. Some of them still need food. So we're helping to support in that.
BRACHE: The biggest thing these groups providing the care have learned is that they can't wait for the community to come to them for help. They need to get out into the community themselves.
For NPR News, I'm Laura Brache in Charlotte. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.