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.

Fighting to open closed doors: how advocates stepped up efforts to help sex trafficking survivors in a world where hiding victims is easier than ever

This article is from Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism. Please join their free mailing list, as this helps provide more public service reporting. For women survivors of sex trafficking struggling to make ends meet, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated an already desperate situation. Funding programs to support them have shifted to more urgent crisis funding— to house and feed the homeless, for example. Losing financial and food security only places these already scuffling women at an even greater risk of being trafficked again to earn money just to survive.

This Speech Clinic (Literally) Helps Trans People Find Their Voice

This article provided by Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism in partnership with the Buckeye Flame. Please join our free mailing list or the mailing list for the Flame as this helps us provide more public service reporting. After beginning with some vocal stretches to warm up her voicebox, Ginger Williams hums and vocalizes to match a tone played by Maureen Brogan, a student clinician. “Good! I got 195,” Maureen reports. 

“Yes!” Ginger whispers, her excitement quiet but palpable even over video conference. Her 195 signifies “195 hertz,” which falls nicely into the 180-240 range associated with a female pitch. 

For Ginger, a transgender woman, this result is exactly what she is here to achieve.

Ohio Department of Job and Family Services tries to bolster its own workforce by posting jobs with no medical benefits in pandemic

This article is from Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism. Please join their free mailing list, as this helps provide more public service reporting. Amid a raging pandemic, Ohio’s agency responsible for looking out for workers’ welfare has started posting full-time temporary jobs with no benefits for its own workforce. 

For example, this week the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) sought to hire an “electronic design specialist,” a job that requires a bachelor’s degree, years of experience, or some combination of both. The hours listed are full time, with a schedule that is “not negotiable” and the position is “not eligible” for benefits.  

As total COVID-19 cases in the state soared to nearly 600,000 and deaths rose to almost 8,000, Eye on Ohio asked why the positions are listed without medical benefits when large employers have to give most of their workforce— even temporary workers— medical insurance eventually under the Affordable Care Act, or pay a penalty. 

A spokesman for ODJFS said “Benefit eligibility under the ACA for temporary or part-time positions is determined based on the length of time employed and hours worked during that period of time.” 

Eye on Ohio further inquired if the positions have a set end date and why officials listed positions with no health care as the chances of getting a debilitating disease have risen. Officials did not respond to multiple requests to comment. 

Each job posting begins with, “The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services’ mission is to improve the well-being of Ohio's workforce and families by promoting economic self-sufficiency and ensuring the safety of Ohio's most vulnerable citizens.”

But it’s not clear if ODJFS’ own workers could be self-sufficient with its own positions: according to Heatlhcare.gov, a monthly premium for a nonsmoking family of four in Columbus is approximately $810. That’s about 24% of what an ODJFS electronic design would make after taxes.

A Cold Covid Christmas in Cleveland

As moratoriums end Dec. 1, need grows for utility assistance; Guide to avoiding shutoffs

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. CLEVELAND, Ohio – The needs of Greater Clevelanders have come in waves during the pandemic, much like the virus itself: first food, then rent, then internet so students could learn from home.  

Now, as moratoriums that staved off utility disconnections cascade to an end, some families face a long winter unsure how they will keep the lights, heat and water on. Moratoriums on shut-offs with Cleveland Public Power and the Cleveland Water Department, for example, ends tomorrow, Tuesday, Dec.

Ohio’s Hospital Capacity Data in Ten Charts

Interactive: Explore Newly Released Hospital Data

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. Updated: Additional data from Nov. 21-24 released on Nov. 27.