Push for multilingual COVID-19 information

Posted at 8:07 PM, Apr 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-22 20:07:42-04

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. — A call for Governor Ron DeSantis to make COVID-19 information more accessible. Dozens of groups say that it’s not readily available for non-English speaking communities throughout the state.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is asking Governor DeSantis to require state and local agencies to share information to all communities especially to Spanish and Creole-speaking areas in the state.

The Florida Department of Health in Collier County is leading the way by spreading mobile information about COVID-19 in three different languages.

Kristine Hollingsworth with DOH Collier said there’s a 35-foot truck traveling throughout rural parts of the county and Immokalee 7-days a week. There’s also a school van that’s been converted to educate Creole and Spanish-speaking communities about healthy practices.

“This messaging is going out to areas in East Naples. It’s going to the Bayshore area, and it’s going to Golden Gate City,” she said. “It is our mission to protect the health of all residents in Collier County.”

But Veronica Robleto, an immigrant rights paralegal with Florida Legal Services in Gainesville said this is not happening all over Florida.

“People not having the updated information affects everyone,” she said.

Robleto along with the SPLC and dozens of advocacy groups wrote a letter to Gov. DeSantis Tuesday, sharing the story of a Florida father who developed a fever and cough, but didn’t know what to do.

Their letter says lack of information violates section VI of the Civil Rights act.

Robleto applauded the Coalition of Immokalee workers for handing out resources to Spanish-speaking communities. But she said they shouldn’t have to carry the sole responsibility of educating that population.

“This should not be the responsibility of these community organizations to get this basic information out. This should be something the government is prioritizing,” she said.

She said they’re asking Gov. DeSantis to have a Spanish translator or closed captioning for Spanish and Creole speakers for his nearly daily briefings, and for the DOH to outline where people can go for testing on their websites.

“Without that information being out there, it could really have a huge impact, not only on those non-English speakers, but on everyone in the state,” said Robleto.

If you own a business or another place where people visit, you can educate those who don’t speak English by printing out one of these flyers and posting them. The DOH website has signs in English, Spanish and Haitian Creole.