While every resident of Adams County has been affected by the pandemic, its impact has been particularly acute for members of the local Latino community. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), while Latino people make up 7.6 percent of Pennsylvania’s population, they account for 11 percent of the state’s COVID-19 deaths.
According to the U.S. Census, about seven percent of the county’s population is Latino. Although there is no data available about the incidence of COVID-19 in Adams county Latinos, it is likely higher than average here as well.
According to Wellspan Health educator Yeimi Gagliardi, Latino people face a unique set of challenges in facing the pandemic, including a higher risk of virus transmission, more limited accessibility to healthcare, social services, and transportation, and greater risk of social isolation.
In Adams County many Latinos work in the agricultural or service industries, including hotels and motels, health care, and food industries. Many of these industries have been defined as “essential” and have remained open during the crisis.
Because essential workers cannot stay at home they have an increased likelihood of catching and bringing the virus home to their families.
Manos Unidas, Hispanic-American Cultural Center in Adams County
While statistics are not available for the county, members of the Latino community are probably less likely to have health insurance in comparison to other groups. The Latino community ranks as the largest population without health insurance coverage in the United States, according to the CDC.
Gagliardi and other local healthcare workers from Wellspan Health’s Latino Service Task Force are reaching out to the Latino community about the health risks of the virus and how to create safer work conditions.
Gagliardi said that while many employers have been proactive about implementing safety precautions, the healthcare workers in the task force are continuing to work closely with community members to foster a “cycle of health and well-being.”
Gagliardi said understanding and following health guidelines can be a challenge for many workers who have difficulty communicating in English, as they can miss important facts about new, updated practices to follow or precautions they’d like to take at work.
“There’s evidence that these programs help people stay healthy,” Gagliardi said. “Part of the work that we do is letting families know that it’s okay, and to remind them that this program is designed to help them in situations like this.”
In addition to the lack of health insurance, the “safety net” of state and federal funds is not always available to immigrant workers. Gagliardi said people need to be in the country legally to qualify for federal and state unemployment and food assistance programs.
“And there’s a fear of applying for assistance even if you do qualify,” said Gagliardi.
The pandemic has produced a greater demand for food services in the Latino community. Gagliardi said about 40 families get food every week at the St. Francis Food Pantry. “We’re seeing more and more people signing up. That’s a good indicator of need,” Gagliardi said.
Another issue affecting many Latino residents is the difficulty of integrating into the local community. The desire to belong can weigh on some residents, especially if there is a language barrier to contend with. Learning a new language is not as simple as one might say, according to Gagliardi, as skills take time to acquire and become difficult to practice in the midst of work and other challenges.
“If we can’t communicate in a language, it’s going to be very hard to integrate,” Gagliardi said. If you don’t feel like you are part of the community and working together, you can think ‘I don’t feel like I belong here.’”
Gagliardi said children often find more success in immersing themselves into the community through opportunities available via outreach programs and institutions like the Vida Charter School. Through education and community support, younger Latino residents often learn how to communicate in a new language, learn about Gettysburg’s history, and bond with their peers.
“They play with kids of other ethnicities, and they have an opportunity to learn the history and have an understanding of where we come from,” Gagliardi said. “It allows them to see themselves as part of something.”
For Gagliardi, one way for non-Latino residents to offer support can be to focus on learning and understanding members of the community. This includes taking the time to understand the culture, the reasons why people come to the United States, recognizing that each culture has its own imperfections, and working together on integrating in a way that benefits the community.
“If people take the opportunity to engage with others, they can see that we’re really not that different,” Gagliardi said.
My name is Katherine, and I am a graduate student at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. I graduated from Fordham University at Lincoln Center in 2018 with a degree in history, and I was one of the news editors for the Observer, the college’s student-run newspaper. I love to learn about and cover different communities, and I am very excited to be interning for the Gettysburg News this summer and getting to know about all the work being done by the residents in the area.
Charles Stangor is Gettysburg News’s Publisher and Editor in Chief.