By Zulma Prieto
We live in a caring community in Elkhart County. The Health Department, Mayor Jeremy Stutzman from Goshen, and Gilberto Perez and Richard Aguirre from Goshen College have called a series of zoom meetings to find appropriate ways to address COVID-19 during this difficult time in Elkhart County. The meetings have been attended by people in the health care field, education, and Latino Media represented by two radio stations and El Puente.
The first meeting on May 16, 2020, addressed several difficult issues. The main concern has been the high number of Latinos who have tested positive to the virus. The bulk of the people becoming infected belong to the ‘essential workers’ who work at the factories. Once they become infected, they are exposing other members of their family to the disease. Hand washing, and keeping social distance are difficult to practice in work places with close proximity and not enough safety measures.
Asking the working population, mainly Latinos and Afro-Americans, and low income people to stay healthy and follow the rules is not enough. Workers are not expendable; they must be considered a very valuable asset by their employers. Above all we acknowledge that if one sector of the population becomes infected, the entire population becomes endangered.
This pandemic has shown us how dependent we are on each other. Not only in the family, but also in the town, county, country and even with other countries. When we realize this reality, we will be in a better position to make responsible decisions and appreciate what local leadership is doing to improve the situation.
Other zoom conversations followed the first one on May 16 and were attended by the County Health Department and the business community. Some positive changes have been made after these dialogues, even though there still is room for improvement.
Yesterday, June 5, Mayor Jeremy Stutzman called another zoom conference, where members of Goshen College, the three mayors from Elkhart County cities, the county commissioner and members of the County Health Department, were also present.
These leaders want to serve the Latino, Afro-American and Amish communities better, by offering better education and communication through media, community leaders and administration leaders.
Most of the information distributed in places like the City of Goshen has been translated to Spanish and has been made available at web sites. El Puente has also published important information.
The Health Department, hospitals, Health Coalitions and clinics are offering more free testing places. When you arrive at a testing site, you will need an ID card, license, passport or some other picture ID. This requirement is necessary in order to collect data that shows gender, age, ethnicity, race, so that people in charge of studying better possibilities to serve the population may do so with that information.
People in general try to do the best they can for their families. Individuals care for their own health and a healthy environment for the people that surround them.
Individuals who live at homes where there are four or more people sharing one bathroom and utensils in small places, find it difficult to keep a safe distance from each other, even worse it is very difficult to isolate a family member who has the virus. In addition workers in the family are concerned not only about the disease, but also not being able to work and provide for the family.
Leaders are becoming acquainted with these real conditions and are trying to help, but in order to help, the community members have to do their part of being willing to learn about the issue and follow instructions.
Therefore, we are asking everyone to being active members and not just recipients of instructions. The city mayors, commissioners, health administrators, and others want to help, but they need you to explain your situation, be tested and follow the instructions so the virus does not extend more in our communities.
If you feel you cannot trust what is being said and done, try talking to others and find ways to communicate so that changes can be made.
There are going to be other meetings with local people in each community, to hear them and work with them. Leaders need that input and they need to secure that information through trusted community members.
We are all in this together. If you live in Elkhart County, you live in a community that cares. What can you do to help?
You can contact me or El Puente for questions, or additional information. We are here to serve you.