U.S. residents who don’t speak English are much more likely to test positive for coronavirus, a new study suggests.
Limited-English speaking U.S. residents are nearly five times more likely to become infected with coronavirus. The study from the University of Washington Medicine System also shows that limited-English speakers are less likely to be tested at all.
Minorities have long experienced disparities with regard to health and medical care. This has been especially true with COVID-19, with ethnic and racial minorities three times more likely to contract the virus and twice as likely to die from it.
When it comes to the coronavirus, our ability to recover will only be as strong as our most vulnerable population. More than 350 languages are spoken across the U.S. In fact, one in five of us speaks a language other than English at home, while 26.5 million are officially considered limited-English proficient, meaning they are entitled to language assistance when seeking health care.
It might surprise you to learn that there are 37 million American adults with impaired hearing – that’s nearly the size of California, or 11 percent of the U.S. population. This group is expected to grow considerably as Baby Boomers age.
For the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, masks, social distancing, and other measures taken to protect public health have created tremendous challenges. At the most basic level, many Deaf and Hard of Hearing people rely on visual cues like the movement of another person’s lips. This is made all but impossible with masks. The result is that Deaf and Hard of Hearing people often feel isolated, as this article from the New York Times points out.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals also miss out on public health information, as many broadcast announcements still do not include closed captions or the use of a sign language interpreter.
And then there’s telemedicine, the use of which has grown exponentially during the pandemic. Some telehealth platforms, as well as more common video conferencing apps like Zoom and Skype, are not built with interpreters in mind.
We search the world over for the finest linguists to join our team of more than 17,000 interpreters and translators. We always say that LanguageLine is a communications company that is enabled by technology. We are human at our core, and our linguists are our heartbeat.
One of our brilliant interpreters, Christina Herold, reached out recently. She asked if our interpreters could say something to the public with whom they’ve been working so closely during the COVID-19 pandemic.