Four weeks after Orange County officials opened their largest coronavirus testing site in Anaheim, there is still no ability to sign up in Spanish or other non-English languages.
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The drive-thru testing site at the Anaheim Convention Center is a central part of a new county government program to make it easier for people to get tested in the county’s hardest-hit communities of West Anaheim and Santa Ana. Both cities are home to many Latino immigrant families for whom English is not their first language.
The county’s top health official on Tuesday cited the lack of translation as a barrier that could help explain why not all of the testing slots at the Anaheim site are being booked.
“I guess there are various barriers to our [Anaheim] site. So I had a conversation with our leading team this morning. Our registration process is only in English, and we’re looking into translating the registration into other languages as well,” Dr. Clayton Chau told county supervisors on Tuesday during a public update on the coronavirus pandemic.
No supervisors asked any follow up questions about it or expressed interest in making the sign-up page available in Spanish or other languages besides English.
After Chau noted the lack of translation, Supervisor Don Wagner seemed to publicly take issue with the county encouraging people who have coronavirus symptoms to get tested, saying it would likely lead to a higher rate of people testing positive – something that could delay re-opening plans.
As of Tuesday afternoon, a few hours after the supervisors meeting, the sign-up form was still only available in English. The Anaheim testing site first opened on July 15 and is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., with tests available only with advance appointments through the sign-up page.
Anaheim and nearby Santa Ana continue to be the hardest hit by coronavirus, on a per-resident basis, among all cities in Orange County, as the virus hits working class Latino neighborhoods especially hard. Many residents are essential workers, like grocery clerks and warehouse distributors, while they wrestle with trying to quarantine in overcrowded housing.
Anaheim’s infection rate is about three times higher than cities like Irvine, on a per-resident basis.
“The Latinx community and the Black community are most affected in Orange County,” Chau said at a news conference on June 30 announcing county efforts to help slow the spread in Anaheim and Santa Ana.
“Our Hispanic and Latinx communities have been at the forefront of communities that are truly affected,” Chau added.
At the same late June news conference, Supervisor Andrew Do announced the county had just signed a contract that day to translate coronavirus information into the non-English languages that are most common in Orange County.
The county’s translation contract came three months after local activists, doctors and community leaders publicly called out critical gaps in information and outreach about the novel coronavirus to Orange County immigrant families and businesses where English isn’t the first language.
“All of our information will be available in multiple of the main five languages in Orange County, and Spanish obviously is one of them. And that contract was executed today, actually,” Do said at the June 30 news conference.
Yet more than a month later, the sign-up page for the county’s Anaheim testing site is still not in Spanish, with neither Do nor any other supervisors raising questions when it came up at their meeting Tuesday.
Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at [email protected].