By Gloria Godchaux
I consider myself an okay computer user. I can navigate fairly well in researching information, scrolling through my Facebook account, receiving and sending emails, and texting my family. Plus, I am very fluent in the English language because it is my first language. However, trying to figure out how to make a COVID-19 vaccination appointment, once I qualified for the “eligible group,” was daunting. I became extremely frustrated because I could not find the information of where to call or which website to use to make an appointment. I began to wonder and worry about our neighbors, whose primary language is other than English and/or do not have access to technology, how would they be able to make an appointment for their COVID-19 vaccination. I began on my self-appointed mission to find out the communication mechanism and resources available, specifically for our Hmong and Spanish speaking neighbors.
Assuming technology is available, the Eau Claire County Health Department has a COVID-19 information Hub https://coronavirus-and-covid-19-information-hub-eccounty.hub.arcgis.com. Here current video information is available in Spanish, COVID-19 Informacion en Espanol and in Hmong, COVID-19 cov lus qhia ua lus Hmoob. I called the phone number listed for the Covid-19 Call Center 715-831-7425 to inquire if there was phone help available in different languages. The “contractor” assigned to the health department said he wasn’t given much information but seemed to think there was an interpreter for Spanish-speakers and hopefully soon, an interpreter for Hmong-speakers. He said, “It’s a process.”
Next, I contacted Eau Claire County ADRC (Aging & Disability Resource Center). I received helpful information for both English speakers and non-English senior speakers. Any senior (or a family member of a senior) is able to all 715-839-4735, Monday-Friday 8-4:30 p.m. to get COVID-19 information and/or help to make a COVID-19 appointment. When needed, the County uses a company called, CLI (Certified Languages International) that offers interpretation services. In our community, a Hmong interpreter is often needed. Fortunately, ADRC gets support from the Hmong Mutual Center or from an available staff member. CLI does offer interpretation for over 230 languages. Often, a family member can help his or her family member obtain services in their primary language, including receiving a home visit if needed. I am truly grateful for this information and felt a sense of relief.
However, there are seniors in our community who may not have a support system in place. For example, I have a senior neighbor who lives alone. She did not have any idea how to navigate the Mayo website to make a vaccine appointment. Fortunately, another neighbor was able to make the appointment for her. As for my family and I, a family friend who works at a pharmacy was able to assist us with “left-over” vaccine appointments. There is value in looking out for one another. It may be old-fashion to some, but I think utilizing the forgotten phone tree may be a way to connect with our neighbors, especially our neighbors who do not have a local support system to offer assistance in obtaining a vaccination appointment. Case in point, my friend who is eligible for a vaccine has not been able to find an appointment. While I was on the EC County COVID Information Hub, I discovered there were appointments available at North High School. I contacted my friend and together we made her appointment.
There’s new information coming out daily regarding COVID-19. It’s difficult to keep everything straight and relevant. But, if each of us can commit to offering a little help to our neighbors the JONAH way, we will have made new friends who are valued in our community and through intentional action, Joining Our Neighbors, Advancing Hope.