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Resources, efforts to combat COVID-19 misinformation in Latino community

Idaho Immigrant Resource Alliance food distribution
Posted at 5:40 PM, Feb 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-03 13:48:36-05

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During a time where the Latino community can easily fall victim to misinformation, local community health workers and Latino leaders are tasked with ensuring the underserved community has access to reliable information.

COVID-19 directly affects the Latino community in Idaho, where nearly 13% of the population identify as Hispanic or Latino.

In 2020, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reported COVID-19 was the leading cause of death for the community.

As the pandemic continues, Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs Executive Director Margie Gonzalez said she wants Idaho Latinos to be cautious.

This pandemic is real,” Gonzalez said. "Lots of people believe it’s something that’s going to pass and not affect us, but a lot of our people have died."

When it comes to accessing coronavirus news, Latinos are 57% more likely to utilize social media as a primary source of information, according to Nielsen. This makes it easier for disinformation to be spread by people like public leaders, celebrities and influencers throughout platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp.

Luis Lagos, community outreach program director for Family Medicine Residency of Idaho, said the false information which spreads on social media directly impacts the Latino community.

Related: Idaho organizations continue to fight misinformation aimed at Latinos

As a vulnerable community, we truly are, as a community that are essential workers in a large majority, we have to go out there," Lagos said. "We are the ones who are going to be in the line of fire and eventually we are going to be affected."

Family Medicine Residency of Idaho provides vaccine clinics working directly with immigrants and agricultural workers.

Community health workers delivering vaccines

Lagos said patients have expressed concerns regarding the safety of the vaccine. Some believe the vaccine contains COVID-19 and makes them sick, it changes their DNA and contains long term effects.

My message to the Latino community is to get vaccinated," Lagos said. "This is something that we hold culturally, vaccines have always existed in our countries."

Irene Ruiz is a co-founder of nonprofit organization Idaho Immigrant Resource Alliance.

With the ongoing pandemic, Ruiz said providing the community with information is still a necessary resource.

“Even my parents have heard things that aren’t true, and I tell them, 'No that’s not happening,'” Ruiz said.

Idaho Immigrant Resource Alliance has worked to provide reliable information to Latinos through educational COVID-19 webinars and videos, bringing bilingual doctors to answer questions people may have and clear misconceptions.

The organization has also provided people in need with money to pay their bills and organic food.

Immigrant Resource Alliance distributing organic vegetables

For us it’s really important to support the community that brings food to our tables and do those important jobs," Ruiz said.

One crucial and trusted resource for the Idaho Latino community has been Mexican radio stations.

In the U.S. 62% of Hispanics say radio is a good source of information during COVID-19, according to Nielsen.

For the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs, working with radio stations has helped them reach a larger audience and provide access to reliable information.

"You have the power to call any Mexican radio station or contact your community health district to learn more," Gonzalez said.

More than two years into the pandemic, community health workers and Latino leaders continue to ensure the Idaho Latino community has access to reliable information in the modern age of disinformation.

To access the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs’ resource page click here

To learn more about Idaho Immigrant Resource Alliance click here