Orange County health officials have partnered with Asian American and Pacific Islander organizations in Southern California to help make COVID-19 testing more accessible for vulnerable AAPI communities, reports Voice of OC.
The Orange County Asian Pacific Islander Task Force was formed after a new reopening requirement mandated that counties in the state reduce transmission rates in mainly working class or minority communities before reopening more businesses.
According to The Orange County Register, the task force hopes to address and help remedy health care inequities affecting communities of color during the pandemic.
Leaders involved in the task force pointed out that resources and testing sites are not readily available or accessible to many AAPI communities.
Shikha Bhatnagar, executive director of the South Asian Network, says that almost all of the resources offered during the pandemic have not been translated into South Asian languages, such as Hindi or Punjabi.
“Very little if any resources have been available to our community in our language,” she said.
A lack of transportation or access to nearby testing sites or resources have also hindered the ability of some AAPIs to get tested or seek help.
“We’re a conservative community where one barrier is lack of understanding that this is a serious illness,” said Tricia Nguyen, CEO of Southland Integrated Services. “A lot of older Vietnamese people don’t drive on the freeway. So they need services closer to home.”
The task force is now conducting county-wide COVID-19 testing three times a week through December 31. The pop-up testing sites are set up at locations familiar to AAPI communities, such as local grocery stores, temples, and churches, and offer testing at no cost — even to those without insurance.
“Setting up these centers in familiar locations increases the likelihood of people getting tested,” said Alisi Tulua, a program manager for the Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Alliance. She says more than 700 people were tested in the first week on the program.
Additionally, the program offers in-language resources, education, and support, including mental health services and food assistance. For people who test positive for COVID-19, the task force will help find temporary housing for those who need to quarantine themselves.
County health officer Dr. Clayton Chau, who also helped organize the task force, says the program will continue its efforts to address health inequities in AAPI communities after the pandemic.
“You will see that the Health Care Agency will really take a new approach,” he said. “We really have to collaborate and pay attention to issues like health equity, and equity in general.”
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