Brown County removes access to COVID-19 testing

by Juan Miguel Martinez

2016 seems to be ages ago, although it was the beginning of what seemed to be the darkest times for Latino/a/x/ people in the United States, particularly for the undocumented folks. Sadly, one of the harshest realities is that many undocumented people go without health insurance. The Covid 19 pandemic started bubbling around February and by March, everyone was in lockdown. Many of us had the luxury of working from home, but a lot of people did not have this option and had to continue working, living everyday with the fear of exposing themselves and their families. It was like something out of science fiction, seemingly like a nefarious plot to fill people with anxiety and remove their ability to put food on the table and a roof over their heads.

Brown County, which has Green Bay as its largest metro area, is an area that doesn’t immediately command attention from the consciousness in Milwaukee, for whatever reason it may be. Voces de la Frontera, that community organization that fights tirelessly for immigrant’s rights, definitely has any county that doles out injustice on its radar, and Brown County is front and center.

“As an organization that has deep roots in the immigrant community and has been a source of support for Latino essential workers and their families who are seeking protection from COVID-19, we want to work with the Brown County Health Department to support this process to move forward, be a resource for community input and help share information with the community. Many essential workers are undocumented and/or uninsured and are at the frontline of this pandemic. It is imperative that we remove barriers to testing for Covid 19 to protect them and protect others.”  Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Executive Director of Voces de la Frontera, asserts.

From the press release:

We call on the Brown County Health Department to re-implement community testing access that is guided by the principles of community engagement that have been adopted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At minimum, community testing must:

1) include communications in multiple languages to serve our local communities

2) provide testing without requiring insurance or identification documents

3) provide access to tests without requiring online registration

4) process and communicate test results in a timely manner, and

5) establish a mechanism of accountability to the community it serves.

The current model of COVID-19 testing in Brown County, in which testing has been relegated to the private sector, has created barriers to Latinx, uninsured, immigrant communities, and essential workers in the city of Green Bay. Such barriers intensify the effects of the current pandemic given the disproportionate higher rates of infections and deaths in racial and ethnic minority communities, especially Latinx and African Americans.

The deadly nature of this pandemic demands a sense of urgency that has been missing from our ongoing meetings with the Brown County Health Department. We are compelled to act with our communities that we represent to ensure they receive the testing services that are so necessary to maintain the health of all the people of Green Bay.

The Virtual press conference was held on Tuesday, September 15th, but can be accessed on the Voces de la Frontera facebook page. Speakers include Asela Martinez, who will be sharing her personal testimony concerning issues with language barrier and economic inaccessibility in the Brown County privatized COVID-19 testing system. Karina Sánchez, who will be sharing her personal testimony concerning issues with the social security requirement and delay in receiving results in the Brown County privatized COVID-19 testing system. Idalia Cervantes, Voces de la Frontera Green Bay Regional Organizer. Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Voces de la Frontera Executive Director. 

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