Language barrier plays toll on COVID-19 testing accessibility

Language barrier plays toll on COVID-19 testing accessibility

MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - Inside the old Gander Mountain Building, thousands have gotten tested for COVID-19.

But Paul Winchester, who has worked at the facility since it opened, says he sees a large gap in who’s getting tested.

“We’ve seen like a 96, 98 percent white American, one percent of our Hispanic American if that, and half a percent of Black Americans,” says Mankato NAACP Board Member and testing site worker, Paul Winchester.

In an effort to be more inclusive and accommodating, the Minnesota Department of Health hosts private tours of COVID-19 saliva testing facilities, that gives the community a chance to voice their opinion on needed changes.

Concerns discussed in Mankato included the language barrier, messaging and technology.

“Never once was there a person here to interpret any language. The only language here we have were English speaking people,” said Winchester.

“Language continues to be a barrier for our community members and how to accommodate everyone’s language ability. Especially when we are using an I.T. type of platform with a smart phone. So our staff workers are able to assist with the technology piece, but not so much with the language piece. We do have language lines to support us, but naturally native speakers would be best,” said Minnesota Regional Sight Incident Commander, Shawn Schloesser.

At the tour, community members called for state funding to provide language interpreters and assist local organizations on getting the message out about the facility’s existence and COVID-19 resources available.

“There’s a lot of people here in Mankato that haven’t gotten tested. It’s those people, those disadvantaged communities. They don’t know about this place. They don’t know that it’s here,” said Winchester.

The state has 11 more tours booked. The next stop Albert Lea.

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