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Navigating Covid When You Don't Speak The Language

Lincoln County has a large Latino population. These are folks who are part of our communities, work here, play here and their children go to school here. The Newport emergency preparedness director Regina Martinez, recognized that the being prepared for an emergency or a disaster was a challenge for those who do not speak English. She applied for and received a grant to bring the LISTO's program to Newport.

Those leaders who have gone through the LISTOs program locally in Lincoln county have been very valuable in making sure that those who don't speak English understand what is going on when it comes to Covid-19. Through Gracie Huerta as an interpreter, I spoke with some of our local county families who do not speak, or speak very little English to find out what they were experiencing. I was told that there was a huge gap in the language barrier and that translations, through Google translate for instance, were not always accurate.

There simply were not enough resources, instructions and information in Spanish that could be understood by those in need. People were afraid, there was no adequate information given in Spanish, and a gap in language for those from Guatemala as well. People didn't know what resources were available. One person got a call from a contact tracer saying that one of her family members had tested positive and she and her kids had to get tested.

They were told to stay home and isolate. She said she was "sad, stressed, fearful and it was a worrisome experience." She called her pediatrician and her doctor who told her to call the county, the county said they couldn't do anything without a referral from her doctor. She said it was very hard for her to get testing information. She said getting the test was very difficult on her kids, who were afraid and it hurt. She was told she tested positive but her kids tested negative, however they later showed symptoms. She didn't want them to get tested again, because they were afraid.

Another person I spoke with said he was concerned and wanted to get tested. He was told that he needed a doctors referral. He didn't have health insurance and was told to call Samaritan. He did and was on hold for over an hour and was transferred to many different departments before he finally gave up. He has since talked to someone at the county health department who sent him a questionnaire to fill out and said they would get back to him.

This man lives in north county and as a LISTOs member was asked if he could help out at the counties call center. He traveled back and forth from north county several days a week without any offer for reimbursement for gas, even though he was off work because of Covid.

At the peak of the outbreak he was able to answer phones remotely from home taking 10-20 calls per day. Then he was told that the county had hired people to do the job now and he was no longer needed. The call center manager reportedly told him that she would see about getting him reimbursed for gas, it is unknown at this time if that happened or not.

Another woman reported that she too has had a very hard time getting information. Many places are closed or only open for short hours. They do receive support from the Salvation Army with food boxes. But all have reported this has been a very stressful and difficult time for many families who don't speak English. Having someone to talk to in their own language helps to alleviate some of the fear.

I have spoken with Dr. Ogden CEO of Samaritan Hospitals.She said "We recognize that we have had some gaps with communication and have been working hard to fix the problem." The county also, since hiring other people, has been more diligent about getting information out in Spanish. Those in need of resources can contact the Salvation Army for a food box and can contact the county for resources at

Call Center - 541-265-0621 Call Center email: LincolnCoCallCenter@co.lincoln.or.us en Mam 1-844-291-4970

Testing Options (if you do not have a doctor) Samaritan 855-543-2780 Lincoln Community Health Center 541-265-4947

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