WILKES-BARRE — Joseph Rodriguez moved to Wilkes-Barre from the Bronx, New York, five months ago to help take care of his mother.

He lost his job at a meat-packing warehouse on Tuesday due to COVID-19 fears.

To add to the financial burden, Rodriguez, 22, has to stay aware of coronavirus information. Because he is bilingual, it falls to him to inform his family — most of whom speak little to no English — on how to protect themselves.

“I’m trying to tell them the truth about all of it. This is not a joke. This is real,” Rodriguez said. “Some of the information doesn’t come out in Spanish and you have to translate it. They have to do something about that.”

For the past two weeks, much has been released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the news media and state and federal government on COVID-19. This includes details on symptoms, how to protect yourself and your family, and how to get tested for the virus.

However, all the information released has been primarily disseminated in English. According to a 2018 report from the Center for Immigration Studies, there are 67.3 million people who speak a foreign language at home (41.5 million of those speak Spanish), and only about 38% of those people don’t speak English fluently.

Leanna Zuniga, a 73-year-old resident of Wilkes-Barre who speaks little English, said she has some information about prevention and the quarantine period.

Eduardo Abreu, owner of the Dominican restaurant Toque de Sazon, located on Hazle Street, said there is much disinformation coming out and all the ideal information is in English.

“Not everyone understands the measures the government is trying to take to control the disease,” Abreu said, in Spanish.

Luzerne County Manager Dave Pedri said his office is working closely with state Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-116, Butler Twp., to disseminate Spanish-language information to Hazleton’s large Hispanic community. Pedri said he will begin to work with local leaders to address this concern in Wilkes-Barre.

Mayor George Brown’s office did not respond to requests to discuss steps the city is taking.

Rebecca Ruckno, Geisinger Health Systems director of health and literacy services, said the marketing department put a COVID-19 information box at the bottom of its website that is also available in Spanish. At testing sites across the system, Ruckno said there are qualified translators as well as audio and video tools in a variety of languages — including sign language — courtesy of partnerships with Language Line and Stratus to help residents.

The language and disability services Geisinger has in place are for those who have visited a part of their health care facility. To make sure awareness about COVID-19 gets into these communities, Pennsylvania Department of Health Press Secretary Nate Wardle said they are working on translating all their news conferences as well as infographics and fact sheets about the disease into Spanish (primarily).

However, Wardle did add there will be other languages added as needed. On the state’s Department of Health website, there is a Spanish-language section, and translated documents are being added as they are completed.

Officials from Commonwealth Health did not respond to requests to discuss steps they are taking at their facilities.

For more information visit: https://www.standardspeaker.com/coronavirus/hispanic-community-dealing-with-pandemic-1.2609912