No Comprendo Covid: Pandemic reveals lack of bilingual health workers

In the early months of the pandemic, Cleveland Councilwoman Jasmin Santana, who represents a West Side ward with the densest population of Latinos in the city, said health department officials reassured her that when the city released urgent health updates, they would be translated into Spanish. 

It didn’t happen. 

The city put out public releases, sometimes daily, as the pandemic evolved – about safety precautions, work restrictions, and how many people were infected with the virus – but the information didn’t seem to make its way to the Spanish-speaking residents in Santana’s ward, where close to 40% of residents are Hispanic. 

When she pressed again, this time with city communications officials, Santana said she was told the city didn’t have resources for translation. 

One high-ranking city official suggested Santana and her office should create Spanish-language versions to distribute, she said. 

The reaction startled her. 

“I almost didn’t know how to respond,” Santana said. “That's when I started really realizing, ‘You know what? This is a huge issue for the city.’ Who would have thought that a city with more than 300,000 residents wouldn’t be ready to have their communications translated?” 

(A city spokesperson did respond to questions about what Santana was told.)

Santana’s concerns as a councilwoman were rooted in what she’d witnessed growing up in her community and later as a health outreach worker: that language and trust act as barriers to resources that can improve or save lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified pressure on a chronically underfunded public health system that already faced staggering disparities in access to medical care and health outcomes, especially for people with limited English proficiency. 

But the crisis also has offered an opportunity, which some local health departments have embraced, to forge relationships and connections that could outlast the virus. 

Cleveland, a city that declared racism a public health crisis almost a year ago, with officials vowing to tackle disparities and inequities, has seen some progress but it has been sluggish. 

Despite a windfall in pandemic aid, Cleveland still has not beefed up its own contract tracing operations by adding bilingual staff. Instead, it has relied on the state health department for virtual assistance with Spanish-speaking residents and a language translation line.

Red tape remains a high hurdle, but Cleveland still able to provide rental assistance to pandemic-stricken tenants

This article provided by Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism . Please join our free mailing list as this helps us provide more public service reporting. Tenants facing eviction in Cleveland Housing Court can access a temporary measure of relief through the current federal moratorium on evictions, and through the city and county’s rental aid programs. But, they’re no silver bullet. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) eviction moratorium, started on Sept. 1, was meant to pause pandemic-related eviction cases against tenants, to provide a measure of relief during these challenging times.

Interactive: See the Lands Sold to Fund Ohio’s Land “Grant” Universities

Native Americans Demand More Recognition From Universities They Funded, Sometimes Unwillingly

This story was funded by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. This article provided by Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism. Please join our free mailing list or text us at (216) 867-6327 as this helps us provide more public service reporting. Growing up in Cleveland, Eastern Band Cherokee tribal member Nicole Doran said Chief Wahoo always made her uncomfortable. 

“I remember growing up and seeing this caricature of Native Americans that I knew wasn’t true,” Doran said. 

Later she earned a biology degree at the Ohio State University. Doran loved the campus and appreciated the opportunities given to her, but she was not happy about the lack of Native American acknowledgement on campus.

Ohioans Speak Out in Focus Group Project: They Want More Accountability, Less Infighting

Just months before Election Day, voters of all stripes in Ohio are at the same time both worried and hopeful. They’re not sure who to trust in the media and government. They’re concerned about economic security for themselves and fellow Americans. They aren’t sure how the election will go down during a pandemic. They want honest leaders to come up with more fixes to serious problems.

But at the same time, they are hopeful that the protests are opening eyes to systemic racism, the need for reform and the next generation of leadership.

Sidebar: What You Need to Know to Vote This Year

How to register to vote: You can register online here: https://olvr.ohiosos.gov/ You can also download an application, print it, and mail it to your county board of elections. When to register to vote: To vote in the Nov. 3 election, your application must be received by mail, or delivered to the board of elections office, or online no later than Monday, Oct. 5. Boards of elections are open Oct.

Slideshow: Protest Art

This slideshow is a sample of art drawn on buildings in Columbus' Short North district. To read Eye on Ohio's previous articles on police stops:

Investigation: Blacks, black neighborhoods most likely to be traffic stop targets in Ohio’s 3 biggest cities

Sidebar: Beleaguered Cincinnati agency probing stop complaints rarely faults cops

Sidebar: Can an officer's perception of you alter your ticket? Biracial man's 'white' tickets dismissed, 'black' tickets sustained

Ohio hospitals remain mum on changes to local bed and ventilator counts; uncertainty affects local patients

The Ohio Department of Health gets daily updates on the total number of beds and ventilators that could be available for COVID-19 patients at hospitals throughout the state. But so far the agency hasn’t provided any hospital-by-hospital breakdown, and the agencies that collect capacity information on their behalf have also declined to release their assessments. The result: Ohioans don’t know how many beds and ventilators are available where they live. Timely and meaningful knowledge could benefit Ohioans from a health perspective, while also helping them understand the range of public policy issues surrounding the crisis. 

The availability of resources to care for COVID-19 patients could mean life or death for thousands of Ohioans. “It’s what keeps me awake at night,” said Ohio Department of Health (ODH) director of health Amy Acton, MD, MPH of her fear of running out of beds, ventilators and personal protective equipment.

Eye on Ohio Launches Project to Combat Misinformation and Disinformation on the Internet

Shana Black, Eye on Ohio's First Draft Fellow. On Thursday, a Cleveland man tweeted a picture saying that that local residents had taken to the streets to end COVID-19. The internet launched a vitriolic response, condemning the city for further spreading the disease. But no one, in fact, had marched. The tweet came from a satire account that had posted an old picture of a Cleveland Cavalier championship victory.