The Latino community in Charlotte, N.C., like those in other U.S. cities, has been hit hard by the COVID-19 virus. Latinos make up about 14% of Mecklenburg County’s population, yet account for more than 30% of overall positive cases.
To understand why and what could be done, Charlotte’s largest providers, Atrium Health and Novant Health, were able to draw on their relationships with local Latino organizations early in the pandemic.
“We don’t live in these communities and we don’t lead these communities. At the grassroots level we partner with trusted leaders in the community,” said Dr. Jerome Williams, senior vice president of consumer engagement at Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Novant Health. “Because faith-based leaders and community leaders have their ear to the community, they were able to communicate out to the community when Novant was bringing those resources in.”
One partner, the not-for-profit Latin American Coalition, has proven to be vital for its boots-on-the-ground connections. It’s been in Charlotte for over 30 years and built trust with the Latino population, offering legal services, education and financial assistance.
The coalition found many Latinos have continued to work during the pandemic, often in public-facing jobs such as laborers, which is contributing to the higher infection rate. “We are seeing more and more people that are infected by the virus and are looking for resources, but some people aren’t quarantining,” said José Hernández-Paris, the coalition’s executive director. “They are trying to keep their families fed and many of them don’t qualify for unemployment and benefits.”