MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee’s near south side started seeing the biggest surge in COVID-19 cases back in April. Specifically, in the 53215 zip code, which has more Latinos than any other zip code in Wisconsin.
Milwaukee’s Commissioner of Health, Jeanette Kowalik, revealed Thursday that young people in Milwaukee’s Latino community are now experiencing a COVID-19 surge.
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“We know there's a spike of cases among young people - particularly, Spanish speaking young people in Milwaukee,” Dr. Kowalik said during a Milwaukee Public Safety Committee Meeting. “We need to be more innovative in how we're reaching people. We can't just rely on phone calls.”
By the end of April, city and county leaders started making sure all of their press conferences are translated, beefed-up bilingual community outreach and set up a free testing site on the south side at UMOS. But community organizers say all these efforts are still not getting to the root of the problem.
”Our community leaders, especially our politicians, have a responsibility to do something more,” said community organizer, Luz Sosa.
“At least 40 percent of COVID-19 cases in Milwaukee are among Latino people, that is the main reason why more young Latinos are getting infected. Most young Latinos and their parents work essential jobs that require them to be at work. They can’t afford to stop working. And they return home to their siblings, kids, and their grandkids.”
Sosa says Latinos in Milwaukee are trying to step-up for each other to stop the spread.
“There are a lot of grassroots organizations and families helping each other out with food, and helping each other with rent payments, so if people do need help recovering, can have some time and help,” Sosa said. “But these are hard times, especially for immigrants. Milwaukee is one of the poorest cities in the country. Taking time off work and physically distancing is a luxury for many.”
Community organizers say coronavirus will continue to spread among Milwaukee's Latino community if more of a focus isn’t put on making sure workplaces are operating safely during this pandemic.
“We need to make sure that our workplaces are safe and if it is required for us to go to work, that our employers are responsible and bring us all the PPE and masks and everything that we need,” Sosa said.