Santa Fe for immigrant workers and their families are invited to a COVID-19 drive-through testing event from 8 to 11 am, Saturday Sept. 12 at Nina Otero Community School.

The drive-through will include to-go meals made by YouthWorks and bags of groceries from the Food Depot for those getting tested. Tests are free and no appointment or symptoms are necessary. Bilingual NM DOH staff will be available and participants can pre-register if they want before the event by selecting Nina Otero Community School as the testing site.

Another testing event geared toward immigrants is planned on Saturday, Sept. 19 at Camino Real Academy.

The events are organized by Somos Un Pueblo Unido, the New Mexico Department of Health, YouthWorks, Santa Fe Public Schools, City of Santa Fe Immigration Committee, Guadalupe Credit Union, Communities in Schools and the Albuquerque Mexican Consulate, and are similar to two others this summer wherein the DOH tested approximately 500 Santa Fe residents for COVID-19.

But the event is not just about testing essential workers and immigrants, many of whom do not have health insurance and may have received inaccurate information about COVID-19 and getting tested.

"We want to help narrow the information gap between Spanish-speaking immigrant communities and local governments and the state government in this pandemic," says Marcela Diaz, executive director of Somos Un Pueblo Unido. "And that's not just getting good, accurate, timely Spanish-language information to our community. It's also making sure that we're bringing back information from our community to our local governments and to our policymakers and to our state to really understand where people are at on this."

Somos Un Pueblo Unido is just one of a network of organizations across the state the DOH utilizes to connect with immigrants and mixed-status families.

The undocumented community  is one of the most underserved groups hard hit by COVID-19 across the nation and in New Mexico. According to the health department's data, Hispanic/Latino people make up 44.63% of COVID cases in the state, while whites only make up 14.33%.

Santa Fe reflects that inequity. The two Southside city zip codes, 87507 and 87505, where a majority of younger people, families and immigrants live, have had the highest concentration of COVID-19 diagnoses, according to the health department's data broken down by county and zip code.

And yet, a lack of widespread information in Spanish could be a barrier to immigrants and mixed-status families getting tested, according to the CDC.

Even political pressure against testing in more conservative parts of New Mexico could be an issue where the mayors, sheriffs and leaders in the community are discouraging testing and other COVID-safe practices, Diaz says. She notes a COVID-19 testing site in Hobbs where protesters gathered to dissuade people from participating.

The health department's website devoted to COVID-19 with updates and resources had not initially included Spanish translations, leaving much of the dissemination of information to local community groups.

"Everything has got to get done in these multiple languages. But that takes funding, takes support," Diaz tells SFR. "An assumption has to be made by governments that this should be automatic and that you need this information to get out in multiple languages to really promote public health."