Waterbury puts plan in place to boost minority COVID-19 testing following recent rise in cases

New Haven

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Combining church and state to stop COVID-19: a new plan is in place to reach minorities in Waterbury and boost coronavirus testing.

Over the last few days, Waterbury’s Director of Emergency Management Adam Rinko has seen more and more lines grow at COVID-19 free testing sites across the city.

RELATED: Police Chief and mayor’s aide among COVID cases in Waterbury uptick, causing more people to get tested

But, there’s something that still troubles him. There is an uptick in virus cases in minority communities and a large number of those individuals are not coming to testing sites.

“We are encouraging our minority communities to start testing,” Rinko said. “We’ve seen a significant uptick [in positive cases] in our minority communities — especially our Latino communities.”

The city is on a full-court press to get the message out to Latinos that it’s important to get tested. They’re relying on pastors in churches in Waterbury’s predominantly Latino neighborhoods.

“We’ve engaged our Latino Pastors Association and we’re currently producing some PSA’s (Public Service Announcements),” said Rinko.

State Rep. Geraldo Reyes, Jr. (D-Waterbury) will appear in some of those PSA’s — part of a media blitz that will occur with the help of Governor Ned Lamont’s Office in Hartford. Those PSA’s may appear on radio stations that target a Latino audience.

News 8 caught up with Rep. Reyes at the Community Health Center’s free COVID-19 testing site on North Elm Street Wednesday.

He says he thinks many in the Latino community have been reluctant to head out and get tested is because “you have that population of undocumented folks that — which is the same group of people we’ve been trying to incorporate in the census — they’re afraid. They’re afraid to come out at any of these sites. They could be interrupted by I.C.E. [Immigration and Customs Enforcement].”

The city and the state are both trying to combat that fear.

“It is absolutely safe,” said Rep. Reyes.

Today, the governor’s office and some Latino religious leaders held their first conference call, along with folks from Waterbury City Hall, who initiated the meeting by phone.

One pastor News 8 spoke with says he believes the churches can play a key role in convincing more people to get tested.

“Because it can save your life or someone in your family’s life,” said Pastor Jose Paniagua, of The Spring of Life Church.

“They trust the pastors,” said Rep. Reyes. “They trust that leadership. This is absolutely safe, quick, and fast and most important, private.”

More information can be found on the city’s website.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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