I hope to reach you with this message of profound gratitude.
The arrival of the 2019 novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, in our communities in March changed the way we live and created unforeseen challenges in our lives. We miss our friends and family. And we miss the regular schedule of work or school. Most of all, the fellowship and unity which defines our Latino community, makes the decision to stay physically apart especially agonizing.
We have so far avoided the surge seen in other places because of our willingness to do our part. And while many Pennsylvanians have gotten sick, we have prevented our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.
Though the growth rate of COVID-19 cases is decreasing in Pennsylvania, we still need to continue to distance ourselves socially. We still have community spread occurring, so it’s important that as many of us stay home as possible to cut dow
n on potential infections. And, if we must go out, we need to wear masks, wash our hands or use hand sanitizer, and stay at least 6 feet away from people who do not live with us.
In the face of this crisis, Pennsylvanians have demonstrated their solidarity, spirit of unity and compassion even while many of you are suffering the direct impact of the coronavirus. I am deeply grateful to each and every one of you for doing your part.
Even though our efforts have been difficult, I recognize that there are special challenges for some Latinos that have kept them from easily communicating with leaders and understanding medical experts. I am also aware that many Spanish-speaking communities have been struck hard by COVID-19. I recently announced a new Health Disparity Task Force that will identify the effects and develop strategies to address long- and short-term consequences of this pandemic on minority communities.
There are many ways you can keep up with the latest information on COVID-19 in Spanish. We continue to expand our network by encouraging Spanish-language groups seeking to provide outreach during the COVID-19 crisis to reach out to the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs (GACLA).
Watch the daily updates from Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine. They are streamed live with Spanish captions at www.pacast.com/live/es and on GACLA’s Facebook page. Many television news channels are also carrying these daily updates with closed captioning available in Spanish.
My updates are also streamed in these places with Spanish captions. And, announcements from my office are available in Spanish at governor.pa.gov/espanol.
GACLA’s Facebook page is a great place to get resources in Spanish, including unemployment compensation, mental health services, and emergency support programs. Members of the Commission also provide updates and a variety of infographics that can easily be shared.
The Department of Health provides many Spanish-language resources at health.pa.gov, including fact sheets and infographics. Anyone with questions about COVID-19 or related issues, such as unemployment and business closures, is encouraged to call 1-877-PA-HEALTH and press 2 to be connected to a Spanish speaker.
Dr. Levine also recently issued an order directing businesses that are in operation to follow protocols to protect their workers. The order includes notifying workers of known cases of COVID-19 in the workplace, prohibiting sick employees from working, cleaning the workspace, and providing masks and enough space for workers to practice social distancing.
I will continue to do everything I can to keep every Pennsylvanian safe. But I need your help. COVID-19 is a disease that feeds on socialization. So, we will need to continue to work together to get through this crisis. That means looking out for our neighbors, wearing masks to protect our fellow community members, and, above all, staying home as much as possible.
We are nearing the recovery phase of this crisis, and I will soon be asking for your support as we strategically reopen our businesses, schools, and public facilities. The Hispanic community is known for its strength, resiliency, and camaraderie. I have faith you will rise strong from this, and I will do everything I can to support you.
But first, we need to win our fight against COVID-19. Please join me in eradicating this illness from our commonwealth by staying home and staying safe. Protect yourself and take care of your loved ones. Only then can we overcome this crisis.
Tom Wolf, a Democrat, is governor of Pennsylvania. He writes from Harrisburg.