About a month ago, Annell, who works as a housekeeper in the Roaring Fork Valley, tested positive for COVID-19 after being exposed at work. Aspen Public Radio is only using her first name to protect her identity because of her immigration status. Annell was asymptomatic, but still struggled during her two-week quarantine because she could not work.
“Of course, I have to pay rent, I have to pay for the bills. I also help my mother who’s in Mexico,” Annell said. “Some days I would just cry because I had no idea how I was going to wake up the following day.”
In Garfield County, Annell represents a population that’s been hit hard by the coronavirus. The Latinx community makes up about 30% of the County’s population, according to census data, yet account for 66% of COVID-19 cases in the county. Pitkin County’s population is 10% Latinx but is seeing nearly 23% of its cases from the Latinx community. Some local Lantinx officials contribute the disparity to the barriers their community faces when it comes to employment, education and communication.
Annell worried that if she eventually showed coronavirus symptoms, she would have to stay home from work longer than the 14 day requirement.
“I’m not afraid that if I get sick, I will die. It’s actually more like if I’m not working, I will not receive any money,” she said.
Brisa Chavez, a hispanic outreach coordinator with Garfield County, said many Latinx workers in the Roaring Fork Valley must choose between their health and a paycheck.
“Looking at who is holding those jobs, a lot of them are Hispanic/Latinos in our community...restaurant workers, constructions, house cleaners,” she said.
Chavez said many Latinxs work as essential workers in industries that interact with the public, so there is a greater risk for COVID-19 exposure. She said how they get to work also poses risks because many use public transportation or carpool. When Latinx workers go out into the workforce and get exposed to COVID-19, Chavez said they may have a higher chance of spreading it to their loved ones.
“We have families that only have one bathroom that are multigenerational families,” she said. “So how do you quarantine? How do you isolate?”
Annell lives in a one bedroom one bathroom apartment with her son. When she tested positive, her son also did the next day. Annell said Eagle County Public Health officials made sure she had all the information she needed about the virus and quarantining in Spanish, but that is not always the case.
Local organization Voces Unidas de las Montañas found that 1 in 3 Latinxs did not know what to do if they contracted COVID-19 and half did not know where to get medical care if they tested positive.
Jasmin Ramirez, a program coordinator and organizer with Voces Unidas de las Montañas, said that is likely because county governments do not publish Spanish-versions of new COVID-19 information fast enough.
“If something is happening today or if something needs to be made aware to our community today in our language, we’re not receiving it in our native tongue the same day it's going out in English,” she said.
Ramirez said that leaves Latinx families in the dark when it comes to mask ordinances, case increases or new public health orders. For coronavirus cases to drop in the Roaring Fork Valley, the Latinx community must be informed, explained Ramirez.
“We definitely want to encourage our county governments and our elected officials really to do more, to protect all of their constituents. They need to really be doing a better job,” Ramirez said.
Annell was able to return to work after two weeks. She said she is nervous about being exposed to COVID-19 again, but she’s behind on rent, so she will continue to work to support herself and her family as the pandemic continues.
Spanish translation of this story is made possible by a grant from the Google News Initiative’s Journalism Emergency Relief Fund.