Supporting Latino Communities Through COVID-19
For North Carolina, August marks five months of living in a world upended by COVID-19. By July, more than 100,00 North Carolinians had tested positive for COVID-19. And, like the nationwide trend , North Carolina’s communities of color are more affected by the virus.
In North Carolina, 9.6% of the population is Hispanic or Latino. But by mid-June, the Hispanic and Latino community represented more than 44% of North Carolina’s COVID-19 cases. 
Prior to the pandemic, Latino communities faced greater health disparities. These disparities are caused by social and economic discrimination. Now, some challenges are proving even greater under the stress of a virus.
“We’re seeing a lack of health insurance, a lack of knowledge on how to navigate the health system, documentation issues, and the majority of community members not receiving stimulus checks,” said Pilar Rocha-Goldberg, President and CEO of El Centro Hispano. “We’re also seeing that our community members are essential workers. They are in construction, restaurants, cleaning services, landscaping and are more exposed to the virus.”
Demand for services and aid increased across the state. So two nonprofits stepped up to make sure their communities were not left behind.
El Centro Hispano
El Centro Hispano (El Centro) advocates for equity and inclusion for Hispanics and Latinos in the Triangle. The center serves more than 7,000 people each year. It supports education, community engagement, health, and economic development.
As the pandemic hit North Carolina, El Centro pivoted. Instead of referring clients to nonprofit partners, they provided direct services. This way they could meet the community’s immediate needs. Supported by COVID-19 relief funding from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, El Centro supplied food, masks and other personal protective equipment. It also offered funds for utilities, rent and medicine for people in need.
They moved all events to virtual platforms to ensure access for community members. And they engaged local Spanish media in a communications campaign to deliver culturally appropriate messaging about COVID-19 testing and prevention.
Camino Community Center
In Mecklenburg County, the Camino Community Center (Camino) is a long-standing resource for Latino residents. Since 2003, Camino has served Latino immigrant families in the greater Charlotte area. It offers a health clinic, mental health clinic, food pantry, thrift store, homeless outreach program, and a variety of other health and human services.
Camino serves more than 25,000 people from more than 15 countries each year. During COVID-19, they saw an increase in demand from existing clients and an influx of new clients. So Camino used Blue Cross NC funds to expand food and health services.
During COVID-19, they saw an increase in demand from existing clients and an influx of new clients. So Camino used Blue Cross NC funds to expand food and health services. In partnership with Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, Camino transformed its warehouse into a delivery site for meals for school-aged children. The organization increased hours at its health clinic. It also began offering telehealth primary care, counseling services and a health education hotline.
“Because of Blue Cross NC, not only have we been able to feed 500% more people during this pandemic,” said Rusty Price, Founder and CEO of Camino. “We have been able to expand our capacity to continue this urgent work in a sustainable way.”
Blue Cross NC is committed to improving the health and well-being of all North Carolinians. We’re proud to support the work of El Centro and Camino. These organizations are going above and beyond to serve their communities during an especially challenging time.
 CDC: COVID-19 in Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups; https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/racial-ethnic-minorities.html
 North Carolina’s Hispanic Community: 2019 Snapshot; https://www.ncdemography.org/2019/09/26/north-carolinas-hispanic-community-2019-snapshot/
 NCDHHS: NCDHHS Selects Organizations to Address Impact of COVID-19 on LatinX Community https://www.ncdhhs.gov/news/press-releases/ncdhhs-selects-organizations-address-impact-covid-19-latinx-community