(KAIT) - The push continues in Arkansas to make sure the Hispanic community has access to COVID-19 testing and education on the disease.
Arkansas United is one of several organizations that have been invited to be a part of the Latinx Stakeholders Group, set up by the Arkansas Department of Health and The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
Arkansas United Executive Director Mireya Reith said the group is to help inform officials on decision making and communication in the Hispanic community during the pandemic.
This group came about, Reith said, due to organizations and individuals activists saying both to the ADH and Governor Asa Hutchinson that there were slow responses on the part of the state when it came to language access and testing in the immigrant populations.
The group has been meeting since the beginning of May and a special urgency has developed in the last few weeks, due to the rise of cases in the Latinx community.
Right now, their focus is on collaboration, to study the data, to understand where the cases are, to identify additional location where testing should take place, and collaborate between the state and communities to make sure the community feels the locations are trusted and to understand the urgency of being tested.
One such collaboration is taking place in Batesville, Raith said. Arkansas United and Batesville Mayor Rick Elumbaugh are working together to get access to testing and support to Hispanic employees of the PECO poultry plant.
There have been outbreaks of COVID-19 at poultry plants in western Arkansas, which also affects Hispanic employees at those plants. There have been no word on outbreaks at plants in Northeast Arkansas, but Raith said there may be a reason to that.
“We really do feel that one of the reasons we have not heard more about outbreaks is because more of the community is not being tested,” Raith said. “And a lot of hat is coming from a lack of information.”
Raith said Arkansas United met with Governor Hutchinson, outgoing Health Secretary Dr. Nate Smith, and incoming interim Heath Secretary Jose Romero on Monday and told them there is not a lot of trust in the community.
There is a fear of people losing their jobs and that people are not taking COVID-19 seriously.
When Mayor Elumbaugh was made aware of some of the collaborations happening at other poultry factories, Raith said he immediately got on the phone with the CEO of PECO and presented ideas of collaboration around the concept of testing.
She said right now, they are working on logistics of making testing events happen. They are also working with local clinics to support the efforts.