Getting tested for COVID-19 becoming impossible for the Spanish-speaking community in Arizona

Posted at 5:32 PM, Jul 09, 2020

PHOENIX — “I feel stressed. I can't even find the words. I feel the government is not taking proper measures,” Mayra Rivera told ABC15. She has been feeling overwhelmed since June, when her best friend asked her for help as an interpreter.

Rivera’s best friend’s husband was having COVID-19 like symptoms and wanted the whole family to get tested, but they failed to find any appointments for a free COVID-19 test due to a language barrier.

“They say there are a lot of resources, but there are no clinics with Spanish-speaking staff that can offer these services to our community, especially in the East Valley. The Hispanic community is full of frustration right now,” stated Rivera.

In the last few weeks, Arizona has seen a rise of coronavirus cases and that has made the state the top global pandemic hot spot. Data continues to show that the Latino community is one of the most impacted by Coronavirus in Arizona.

Areas in Phoenix, with predominantly Latino and Black communities, have recently reported waiting in line for up to 14 hours for free COVID-19 testing, but Rivera says the racial disparities of Coronavirus go beyond that.

“Even for me, as an English speaker, it's frustrating. You call and they have you waiting for more than an hour. You leave a message and they don't return your call. When I mentioned he was having symptoms and that his daughter has a medical condition that makes her vulnerable to the virus, they say they don't qualify because his symptoms weren't enough,” added Rivera.

Tired of waiting, Rivera says the family decided to go to urgent care but testing there came with a price tag.

“He paid $200 dollars out of pocket because they don't have health insurance,” said Rivera.

For this family, $200 dollars is half of their weekly paycheck, so they decided only their dad would get tested. As suspected, the test results came back positive about two weeks later.

“You really have to test everyone for the test to be valuable,” stated Raymond Embry, Development Director for Embry Women's Health.

Embry manages a testing site at Mesa Community College. He says testing only one family member doesn't make sense, “you never know where that infection came from and that could really impact everyone else.”

The rest of the family now have symptoms of COVID-19, so they must now repeat the search for testing.

“She was turned over by many, many people. Most likely they're infected,” stated Rivera, who now fears she may also be infected.

“Now, I'm going to have to find a place to get tested also, but I know in the East Valley, it is really hard,” added Rivera.

“If the patient goes to there are still spots available,” said Embry who encourages people interested in getting tested with them to book an appointment.

The Embry Women's Health testing site located in Mesa is open 24 hours a day, and 7 days a week. It is free, but appointments must be made online.

For Rivera, it is also important to highlight the need for more information available in Spanish on testing websites. She says, “going online is difficult because everything is in English.”

Embry acknowledges this issue, “You brought up a great point, about having our website accessible in Spanish. As soon as we finish this call, I'm willing to make sure that happens.”

But what happens when underserved communities, such as undocumented families with no health insurance or an Arizona identification, seek these services?

“Some people are out there saying, ‘we need a social security number, we need a driver’s license.’ If you review the documentation available in the public HRSA website, none of that is required. It’s the best practice to collect it, but that

should not prohibit them from being able to offer these services to these patients,” stated Embry.

Still, Rivera believes more needs to be done.

“I think that this situation that we're living in Arizona is completely out of control. I don't think we have the government by our side we're pretty much on our own.”