Latino Leaders Address High Number of COVID-19 Cases Among Latino/Hispanic Nebraskans

(KFOR NEWS  May 22, 2020)   The following is a statement from Las Voces on COVID-19’s Impact on the Latino Community:

COVID-19 is having a disproportionate impact on the Latino/Hispanic community in Nebraska in the number of infections, deaths, and across a range of issues including unemployment, access to health care, and mental health care.  Longstanding disparities in health care access and preventive health care exposes Latinos to pre-existing conditions like diabetes, respiratory or heart disease making them even more susceptible to the virus.1  Nationally, the Pew Research Center reports that 40% of Latinos compared to 27% of all Americans had to take a pay cut, and 29% lost their jobs as opposed to 20% of the overall population.   And yet, leaders have blamed the workers’ living conditions instead of looking at their working conditions. Latino leaders across the state condemn the treatment of Latinx workers.

Dr. Marty Ramirez of Las Voces said, “Meatpacking workers, who are mostly Latino, are being sacrificed and treated as expendable not essential workers.  The pandemic is taking a terrible toll on people of color across the state. Whether meatpacking workers, restaurant workers, or other service and agricultural workers, it is our low-wage workers who are bearing the brunt of this pandemic.”

“Our leadership and government is failing to protect all workers in the meat packing industry in Nebraska,” said Yolanda Nuncio of Grand Island.  “Meat processing plants thrive and allow communities to thrive across Nebraska.  We are asking the governor to lead with the experience he has gained in these few short weeks and take action to protect our states’ citizens and our communities.”

Senator Tony Vargas said, “Employees at meatpacking plants are essential workers, and they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. That means ensuring that these employees are going to work at plants that are safe and that prioritize their health and well being. These workers should be notified if any of their coworkers test positive for COVID-19. They shouldn’t be forced to decide between keeping their job or staying home if they are sick. The work that Las Voces is doing to advocate for basic protections for these workers is incredibly important and I’m proud to stand with them.”

The current COVID-19 crisis is another example of how historically Latino/Hispanics have been treated in Nebraska.  We ask the following:

  1. Require a minimum of six feet distance between workers on the line to avoid contact or inhaling airborne droplets containing infectious agents;
  2. Require notification of local, state and federal health officials and of coworkers of positive COVID-19 employees;
  3. Expand and prioritize diagnostic testing to all workers who are symptomatic and those with whom they have had contact;
  4. Provide appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and training in the appropriate languages on its correct use to all employees.
  5. Listen to the Latino community and advocate for the workers, giving them a platform to speak without fear and retaliation; and
  6. Focus on mental and general health needs and safety.

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