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Lexington sees spike in COVID-19 cases in Hispanic community

Posted at 7:25 PM, Jun 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-15 19:26:08-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — As businesses welcome back customers and protesters continue to take to the streets to fight against racial injustice, Lexington health officials are reminding people to remain vigilant in the effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, especially as it continues to affect communities of color at a disproportionate rate.

The Lexington-Fayette County Health Department reported Monday that the city now has 1,129 confirmed cases, as well as 20 deaths. Between June 8 and June 14, the city reported 182 new cases and six new deaths, according to a news release from the department.

"It's worth remembering it is not over," said Kevin Hall, spokesperson for the health department. "This is not the second wave. We're still in the first wave."

When asked if he is worried that people might be growing complacent six months into the global pandemic, Hall said he believes many might be experiencing "COVID fatigue."

Isabel Taylor, who is the multicultural affairs coordinator in Mayor Linda Gorton's office and heads up Global Lex, sees that fatigue in Hispanic communities in Lexington.

"If you look at the COVID number of cases that we had in the Hispanic community for three months, it was very, very low," Taylor noted. "And I think that community got complacent."

This time last week, Lexington reported that 177 people who identify as Hispanic had tested positive for the coronavirus. By Monday, that number jumped to 266.

According to data released by the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, 24% of the city's total cases are people who identify as Hispanic, despite the fact that the group only makes up 7% of Lexington's population.

Taylor told LEX 18 that she is aware of several businesses in Hispanic communities that have not adhered to social distancing guidelines after reopening, but the problems appear to run deeper than that.

"It's a community that is very mindful of following protocol and procedures and the law," Taylor said. "But in this case, they've been misled by a lot of misinformation on the internet. So they need to realize what is going on here in Lexington."

LEX 18's Mike Valente spoke with Taylor via Zoom Monday, along with Rosa Martin, a board member of the Foundation for Latin American and Latinx Culture and Art (FLACA), Dominique Olbert, president of the Community Response Coalition of Kentucky (CRCKY), and Mark Royse, general manager of RADIOLEX.

Together, these community leaders have been working to bring vital information to people in the Hispanic community.

Organizations like CRCKY had already been offering assistance to immigrants who may have suffered financially as a result of the pandemic.

Now, they are all working together to try to bridge the communication gap.

"There wasn't an infrastructure for communicating in any language other than English," said Royse, who noted that RADIOLEX broadcasts in Spanish 24/7 on WLXL 95.7 FM. "So there were folks here, people in the governor's office who really scrambled to make sure we got the word out."

RADIOLEX also offers recaps of Governor Andy Beshear's news briefings in multiple languages.