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Chicano Federation Reacts To More Businesses Reopening

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The Chicano Federation in San Diego is concerned about the impact of re-opening on San Diego’s Latino community, workers and customers. Latinos in San Diego have already been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaker 1: 00:00 San Diego County has now been given permission by the state to move further into phase two reopening. That means that dine in restaurants and in store retail could begin operating with safety modifications within days. Now, the employees of restaurants and retail shops will join the ranks of frontline workers as they prepare to meet the public. The Chicano Federation in San Diego is concerned about the impact of re-opening on San Diego's Latino community workers and customers. Latinos in San Diego have already been disproportionately affected by the covert 19 pandemic. Joining me is Nancy Maldonado, she's CEO of the Chicano Federation and Nancy, welcome to the program.

Speaker 2: 00:44 Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Speaker 1: 00:45 What are some of your biggest concerns about this accelerated phase of reopening in San Diego?

Speaker 2: 00:51 Well, you know, as you mentioned, I mean, Latinos have already been disproportionately affected here in San Diego. Uh, the County of San Diego reports that the nose make up about 60% of the total COBIT 19 cases in the region. And this isn't by coincidence, this is a Testament to the historical inequities that exist within our County. So as we begin to talk about reopening and especially in accelerated reopening, we really need to look at why the cases are so high among the Latino community and really start to address some of those issues so that we don't continue to see these disproportionate rates of infection and see a spike in cases as well.

Speaker 1: 01:34 Now, this morning at a news conference, you called on business and elected officials to have the necessary protections in place for these workers as they go back to work. Have you heard that that's not happening anywhere in the County?

Speaker 2: 01:48 You know, in fact, I was just somewhere yesterday. Um, and I was talking to one of the workers because I noticed that his mask, which was a reusable mask, looked very used. And I asked him and he was on Latino worker and I asked him how long he'd been wearing that mask. And he told me he'd been wearing it for a couple of weeks. So I asked him if he was required to, to provide his own masks, which he told me he was. So at the very least, if businesses want to open it, and certainly we understand the need to want to reopen, but also let's not lose sight that of these of these human lives that are being put at the forefront of the reopening and as business owners, as elected officials, let's make sure that our community has all the protective gear that they need. So I'm sure that it's happening in some places, but it's certainly not happening in all.

Speaker 1: 02:37 What are you hearing from the community? Are people looking forward to going back to work or is there anxiety?

Speaker 2: 02:44 No, there's definitely anxiety and I mean I think across the state and in the County we're seeing that most people are very, very nervous about returning to work because of a potential infection and them having to bring it back to their families. And that's something that we're seeing in the Latino community, which has contributed to the high rate of infection. Is that because Latinos are disproportionately represented in our frontline workers, they've been exposed and then have to bring it home, not just to their families, but again, because the lack of affordable housing here in San Diego, a lot of times we see multiple families living together and that's definitely contributed to this high rate of infection and we can't leave these inequities out of the conversation. So I know that everyone is eager to reopen, but we also have to keep the lives of our essential workers at the forefront of this reopening.

Speaker 1: 03:39 You've mentioned that there has been a lack of culturally relevant information about the crisis in the County. Can you tell me more about that?

Speaker 2: 03:47 Absolutely. So that's one of the first things that we started to hear from our families that we serve because as soon as COBIT 19 hits San Diego County, we started reaching out to all of our families to see what their needs were and how we as an organization could better serve them. And the one of the things that we overwhelmingly heard is that there was a lot of misinformation that there wasn't enough information in Spanish. And that our communities were really uneducated about what was happening because of this lack of information and that they didn't know what to believe. So as this crisis has gone on, the County has done a better job of putting out information in Spanish, but there's other languages and other communities that are being left out. So I think that there's, there is a very important need to know who our community is and to provide relevant information and all of the languages that our community speaks.

Speaker 1: 04:46 And the Chicano Federation is also creating a task force. What, what will that task force be doing?

Speaker 2: 04:53 Yeah, so actually we created our task force a couple of months ago because part of what we were seeing is that all of these inequities that have been exposed there, they weren't being addressed. So everyone was talking about a reopening and, but we were talking about a reopening and getting back to the status quo. And we believe that this is our opportunity to come back differently. So our task force formed out of several nonprofit providers talking about this issue of equity and addressing these inequities that exist across the County, which include lack of access to healthcare, economic opportunities. Again, the affordable housing. So we started talking about how we could come together to make sure that the voices of our community are elevated because one of the things that we've seen as non service providers is that people recognize are important during a crisis because obviously we're providing the services and we're in the community, but soon as the crisis starts to subside or you know, the threat is lessened, then our important suddenly goes down. And we know that nonprofit service providers will play a critical role in this recovery and we will for years to come. So why aren't I our voices being included in a lot of these County taskforce that are being formed? You know, there's one, uh, there's a couple about return to work test scores and we feel like we should have a voice at that. There should be many different voices at the table when we talk about the issues that are going to affect our communities.

Speaker 1: 06:30 Now, do you think that in moving ahead in an accelerated pace for reopening that the County is overlooking the risks faced by the Latino community?

Speaker 2: 06:40 I think so because I don't think that there is a plan to protect the Latino community. I mean aside from providing protective gear, we also need to be talking about what's the plan for if an essential worker it does get infected but they don't, you know, they don't have the luxury of self isolating because they live in a crowded home. Is there an opportunity to make sure that that person can then go to a hotel? There's, there just really isn't that I've seen. There really isn't a thorough plan to address how to deal with situations like this and ensure that we don't see a spike in cases. So we are very concerned about our community and about all communities of color because communities of color are disproportionately being affected across the County.

Speaker 1: 07:29 Now considering the pros and cons that the reopening of retail and restaurants presents for workers, do you support the idea of people dining and restaurants? Again, perhaps as early as this weekend?

Speaker 2: 07:41 You know, when we, when we look at who is going to be affected, obviously we have to be protective of our community and I think as long as business owners are following all of the CDC guidelines and they're providing the protective gear and they have a plan in place for what happens if someone does get infected, we would support that. But so far we haven't.

Speaker 1: 08:02 All right. Then I've been speaking with Nancy Maldonado, she's CEO of the Chicano Federation and Nancy, thank you. Thank you.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.