The Trump administration released the English-only two page document titled “The President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America” on Monday.
“There are more than 40 million Americans who speak Spanish at home. It’s unacceptable for the President to provide public health guidelines without offering those guidelines in Spanish and other languages spoken in the United States,” said Tony Cárdenas, chairman of CHC BOLD PAC, in a statement, according to ABC News. “As families across the country are equipping themselves with lifesaving information, it’s cruel for this administration to not make this information accessible to everyone — in a language they understand and trust. Our nation is facing an unprecedented public health crisis, a pandemic, and it will take all of us working together to keep our communities and our loved ones healthy.”
Hugo Balta, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) and Owner, Head of Content of CTLatinoNews.com (CTLN) agrees. “When a crisis takes place a lot of people tend to panic, get stressed and anxious. These are natural human reactions, the best way to alleviate these reactions is by understanding the situation. If you are a Spanish speaker and don’t have access to news that you can understand it is easy to panic. Having access to news that you can fully understand allows people to calm and see the steps that are being taken by the authorities.”
The NAHJ is working on a Spanish language coverage guidance for the crisis.
Governor Ned Lamont’s website has the option to translate all of the material published in English to be translated into Spanish, including a special page dedicated to the coronavirus.
But keeping Spanish native speakers informed falls on the shoulders of Spanish language media like Univision and Telemundo. The Spanish-language media are translating guidance about hand washing and the effects of closing schools and businesses. Telemundo is adding a national weekday newscast focused on the coronavirus, reported CTPost. It’s also expanding its morning show and midday newscast to include segments on the virus.
CTLN partners with Identidad Latina to serve the entire Hispanic, Latino community in Connecticut.
“Having access to news in Spanish helps the Hispanic community to stop
the spread of miscommunication. They can verify things that they are
told. They can read about the topic. Having access to information from
legitimate news organizations gives people sources that they can trust.
As people get informed, they are more likely to catch fabricated news
shared on social media platforms”, Balta said.
Thomas Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, a civil rights organization, said he’s not surprised that some states are behind on Spanish-language messaging, especially those like Arizona, where immigrants and Hispanics have faced hostility from laws and raids meant to crack down on illegal immigration.
According to The Star Tribune, Saenz said Hispanic and immigrant communities already face barriers to health care, including fear of seeking treatment because of their immigration status.
“The lack of bilingual material sort of exacerbates some of those issues that create uneven access to information and services,” Saenz said.
Spanish is the second most spoken language in the United States.