McLeod County Public Health workers want to improve their service to the Spanish-speaking community.
"We continue to struggle with higher rates of (COVID-19) infection among our Latino residents," Meghan Mohs, interim director of McLeod County Health and Human Services, told the County Board this past week. "It is a point of frustration for us in public health. We never want to see disparities like that."
McLeod County's Latino residents make up 6.5 percent of the local population, Mohs said, but account for 26.5 percent of positive COVID-19 tests.
Board Vice Chair Doug Krueger asked if seasonal workers had played a major part in those statistics. Mohs said there wasn't a clear way to distinguish between seasonal workers and permanent residents in the data, but noted there hadn't been an outbreak among seasonal workers in the count working for Seneca Foods in Glencoe.
"We really haven't seen it in that ... population," she said, noting that there were other groups of seasonal workers in the county. "I suspect it's more permanent residents."
Board Chair Joe Nagel said a lot of work had been done ahead of time to educate and protect seasonal workers.
"People on the team at human services did a very good job working with Seneca, but Seneca did a very good job as well," said Sheila Murphy, county administrator, adding that the company worked with public health and Glencoe city.
Board Member Rich Pohlmeier asked if the disparity was in part due to a smaller effort to educate Spanish-speaking permanent residents. Mohs said that is one factor health workers are looking into.
"We suspect it is ... demonstrating there were health disparities there all along that have made that population maybe more vulnerable to COVID," she said.
COVID MORE COMMON
IN YOUNGER PEOPLE
Mohs said residents age 20-29 have had a much higher rate of positive COVID-19 tests than older residents, both nationally and in McLeod County.
"That is where we are seeing our highest increase," she said. "The theory is with bars and restaurants reopening and people socializing more, we are seeing an increase for that reason."
Overall, McLeod County had 115 confirmed cases as of July 24. Testing is primarily done for those with symptoms at this time. It had been offered more broadly by some health providers, Mohs said, but that is changing as other places in the United States have a higher demand for tests.
"Even in that 20-29 age group, we can see very serious cases," Mohs said, "particularly if people have pre-existing conditions we know are high risk for COVID. We can also see mild illness and asymptomatic. So it really runs the gamut in that younger age group."