Language barriers hinder contact tracing among non-English speakers

SALISBURY, Md. – A big tool in keeping numbers low is contact tracing, but health officials say that’s been harder with non-English speakers.

According to Wicomico County Health Department Community Health Nurse Kate Schulz, language barriers or fear of the government has made it harder to do contact tracing among non-English speakers.

But they’ve come up with ways to make sure they’re adequately investigating coronavirus outbreaks.

According to Schulz, the health department has trained bilingual staff to help, but they might not always be available to translate.

Another option is that they’ll use an interpreter to speak over the phone with someone who’s tested positive for the virus or has come into contact with someone who’s tested positive.

But she says when two people are asking for personal information it can be a scary situation for the other person on the line.

However, we’re told with challenges comes new opportunities as well.

“This has presented the health department, but also broadly other entities doing contact tracing too, with significant opportunities to kind of better connect with populations and groups that in a lot of cases maybe we hadn’t necessarily in all situations,” said Schulz.

According to Matthew Peters, director at the Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center in Easton, another challenge is that often times contact information isn’t always accurately transcribed making it a little harder to get in touch with the community.

Peters adds that another obstacle is that oftentimes these families will only have one phone.

Categories: Coronavirus, Maryland