Here’s what Spokane health workers are doing to combat COVID-19 spread in diverse communities

WA Dept of Health: Minorities hospitalized, dying at higher rates from COVID-19

SPOKANE, Wash. – COVID-19 guidelines, new regulations, things can change quickly with the pandemic. It’s not always easy to follow along, especially for those who don’t speak English.

Fortunately, there’s a team out there to help.

The Spokane Regional Health District has a team of what’s called community health workers.

Kimberly Kreber, the community health worker coordinator with SRHD, says they have a team of about 11 people who are also part of those communities. This includes the Hispanic communities, as well as Slavic, Marshallese and more.

People like David Castro and Nataliya Dimov know what’s going on in their smaller communities, and they decided to step up and help them understand what’s going on with the pandemic.

Reaching certain communities can be tough, especially right now.

“For me, Facebook live events where I can talk to people about different topics like data or what the governor has to say related to the new restrictions,” Castro says of how he helps reach the LatinX community.

While Castro continuously does Facebook lives, he knows not everyone can connect to the internet. Getting into this role, Castro wished they could do even more to help reach other Latinos.

That’s why spreading information by word of mouth can be really powerful.

In one instance Castro shared with 4 News Now, he said someone was isolation, being in close contact with someone who had symptoms. During that time, that gentleman asked for more information about testing sites to give to his friends and co-workers.

“He said, ‘I wouldn’t have gotten tested if it wasn’t for my daughter who was having symptoms and I wasn’t,'” Castro explained. “That was really beautiful to see that and that’s how community health prospers, is through word of mouth. It’s through people taking ownership and sharing that knowledge with others.”

The health district is also creating ads and graphics in other languages, having them placed in community newsletters or newspapers.

Dimov, the Slavic community health worker, says they had an ad in November thanking essential workers for all they’ve done.

“We are currently working on another ad for December and maybe including some stories of people who went through COVID personally and their experiences for people to see that this affecting everybody and not just specific communities,” she said.

RELATED: Health data shows Spokane County’s Pacific Islanders disproportionately affected by COVID-19

RELATED: WA Dept of Health: Minorities hospitalized, dying at higher rates from COVID-19

COVID-19 can affect anyone, but health officials say COVID-19 impacts people of color and immigrant communities more due to health inequities. It’s all dependent on their working and living conditions, access to healthcare and language barriers.

That’s why Dimov and Castro are out there reaching out to these communities and making sure they understand what’s going on.

“We’re just trying to reach out to the local churches and people in the community who are respected to just build relationships and see how they are doing,” Dimov said. “Just try to help them understand the message everyone’s trying to convey to keep this community safe.”

Kreber says the health district is continuously working with other community organizations to help offer services and making sure things can be translated well, too. Latinos en Spokane is one organization helping Castro and others in the community get access to the services and resources they may need.

For example, some community organizations are helping diverse communities work through the unemployment system.

“Really, it goes back to class standards, which is culturally and linguistically appropriate services,” she said. “It’s not having someone who can speak the language, but it’s also someone that can help navigate the system.”

Both Dimov and Castra say they see a solidarity between people in their communities, as well as an understanding of what’s going on. They just have to continue keeping in touch with them and helping them access services whenever needed.

“I think everyone is waiting and wanting to get things back to normal as quickly as possible. Again, we can’t rush things or try to do things without looking at the guidelines, just trying our best to go along with everything and going through this together,” Dimov said.

To learn more about racial and ethnic disparities with COVID-19, click here.

RELATED: 1 in 40 people living in Spokane Co. have tested positive for COVID-19 during pandemic