By Dan Spalding
WARSAW – City and county officials have mobilized an outreach effort with Hispanic leaders and are seeking more testing after three mobile home parks in Kosciusko County were identified with coronavirus outbreaks in the past week or so.
Kosciusko County has seen a sizeable jump in the number of positive cases in recent weeks, and about one third to one half of the cases have been identified as coming from a handful of mobile home parks. Many of those testing positive from the parks are Latinos, according to Nichole LaLonde, an epidemiologist with the Kosciusko County Health Department.
On Monday, June 1, a group of people – including some from a loose-knit Hispanic coalition – began going door-to-door in mobile home parks talking to people and placing placards on doors, said Mayor Joe Thallemer.
About 35 cases have come from three parks and a mobile home near Milford in the past seven days, she said.
The parks were identified with addresses provided by the health department and are Green Acres Mobile Home Park on East CR 200N; Whispering Pines on Levi Lee Road and West Haven Estates on West Old Road 30.
Thallemer said he worked with the county health department and Latinos over the weekend to come up with a response. The effort, he said, is an attempt at “trying to stay ahead of what we have known could happen.”
Leo Patiño, 33, was part of the group that fanned out Monday with firefighters and bilingual speakers to mobile home parks. While they are focused on the four hotspots, he said they plan to visit all mobile home parks in the county.
“The bottom line is we don’t want to scare people. This is just information in regard to the pandemic,” Patiño said.
Nationally, people of color – blacks and Hispanics – have been hit hard by the pandemic. Hispanics make up roughly 8 percent of the county’s population, according to a US Census report.
Many Hispanics are hesitant to come forward and seek help, Patiño said.
“We’re pretty worried about that,” he said. “Unfortunately, the legal status of some of our community members does deter them from seeking out the health that is needed for them because of the ramifications that that may cause.”
Some health care facilities are asking for legal identification and officials are seeking some kind of reassurances that they won’t be subject to scrutiny over their status if they seek testing.
Patiño said they are working toward an arrangement for a free testing site and that Our Lady of Guadalupe church on the north side of Warsaw has offered its parking lot for such an effort, he said.
“We need a free testing site here so that we’re not propagating this virus,” he said.