With COVID cases rising, Latino leaders hoping to motivate their community to get vaccinated

Saying that 60% of new COVID-19 cases in towns such as Elgin and Aurora are unvaccinated Latinos, a group of local leaders and organizations held a call for action event Thursday in Elgin to motivate people to get vaccinated.

"The delta variant is here, the delta variant is real and the delta variant is affecting our communities," said Oswaldo Alvarez, executive director of the Chicago Workers' Collaborative. "We need to reach people in every way possible."

Nationally, Latinos make up about 18.5% of the population but 28.5% of COVID cases. A July analysis by The New York Times found that Latinos in Kane County tested positive at a rate six times higher than the county's white population.

"Within my community, there's still a hesitation to get vaccinated," said state Sen. Cristina Castro of Elgin. "But more people are comfortable wearing masks, so you can sense that people in the Latino community are recognizing the danger of the variant and taking it seriously."

Castro, who has hosted several vaccine clinics, said she uses herself as an example when trying to convince people to get vaccinated.

"I had COVID-19 last spring and it was horrible," she said. "Every time I speak to crowds, I'm not afraid to say, 'Hey, I had it, I know what it feels like and I got vaccinated because I don't want to feel that way again.'"

Martha Martinez, supervisor of the Elgin Area Pandemic Assistance team, said they're targeting Latino neighborhoods and apartment complexes with informational door hangers in an effort to educate people about the safety and availability of the vaccine.

"In the beginning, the vaccine appointments were scarce, but today we have the luxury of being able to offer the vaccine of choice on the day they want at the location that's closest to their home," Martinez said. "But it's getting tough to convince people."

State Sen. Karina Villa of West Chicago asked people to pause and remember the time last year before vaccines were available.

"Remember those moments of agony, of despair, of worry," she said. "Remember the moments of people dying, our loved ones dying."

Now, in the vaccine stage of the pandemic, she said, "We need all of you to say, 'We are going to get vaccinated, we're going to do it for our friends, for our family, for our loved ones, for our children.'"

Alvarez, who was the former director of the census for Illinois, likened the effort to educate people on the vaccine to the census. "The first part is the easiest," he said. "Now we're in the part where this is a massive campaign, where, like the census, 100% needs to be our goal."

  Essential workers carried family photos with messages explaining why they got vaccinated during a call-to-action news conference Thursday at the Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin. With COVID rates rising and vaccination rates lagging among Latinos, several Latino organizations and leaders are working to educate their community and get past a wave of vaccine hesitancy. Rick West/
  State Sen. Karina Villa speaks about rising COVID rates among Latinos during a call-to-action news conference Thursday at the Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin. Rick West/
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