TAMPA, Fla. — The Hispanic Services Council in Hillsborough is doing all it can to ease concerns about the coronavirus in the community it serves: the area's Hispanic population.

  • Group started WhatsApp chat to convey latest coronavirus information
  • City of Tampa also sending out alerts in Spanish
  • More Coronavirus stories

Currently, there are only 3 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Florida, but Hillsborough County resident Ligia Rodriguez is still concerned.

“I work in a hotel, so I’m between a lot of travelers every single day,” she said.

Rodriguez is not alone. The problem, according to Hispanic Services Council project director Maria Garavito, is that sometimes residents don't know who to turn to in order to be best informed.

“There’s not much information and they all rely on information from Facebook, online and they don’t look for the right information,” said Garavito.

To clear things up, the organization has started a Whatsapp chat for families in Spanish. Employees are part of the chat, using it to keep them up to date on the latest information and best practices to stay healthy.  

Some are also using it to express fears about the virus and how it could affect them.

“Many, many parents in the chat are new to the country so they don’t know how to proceed in cases in an emergency like this one, so the chat has been a support,” Rodriguez said.

We sat down with some of the families to hear about their concerns.

“The biggest concern of this group of parents is basically the lack of knowledge,” said Rodriguez.

“My worry is for people like me who are older,” said Madeline Gusino in Spanish.

“How they can prevent economic impact if they miss work,” said Jessica Fernandez.

“Many of the members don’t have health insurance, so people are afraid to go look for a doctor knowing that its going to be a big bill,” Rodriguez added.

City of Tampa Hispanic outreach

We spoke with Tampa mayor Jane Castor about some of those fears, and her message was simple: "Please come forward."

“Call the Department of Health," she said. "There are no issues with immigration. We’re going to ensure that everyone gets the appropriate treatment.”

Both the city of Tampa and Hillsborough County have coronavirus information on their websites in Spanish.

The city of Tampa is also sending out Spanish text alerts, which can be accessed by texting ‘TAMPA LISTA’ to 888-777.

But since Hispanics and Latinos make up 29 percent of the county’s population, the Hispanic Services Council says more resources need to be made available to meet the need of this demographic.

“I think everybody has to do their part and I think everybody has to think about the Latino community because we’re a big minority and not many people speak English,” Garavito said.