Concern over increase in COVID-19 cases within Hispanic community

CNS photo/Callaghan O'Hare, Reuters

Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows Spanish-speaking Americans are being infected by the coronavirus at a disproportionately high rate. As some immigrant families struggle with job loss and health-care costs, they are turning to the Catholic Charities and their local parishes to obtain help.

In response to the pandemic, Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama has joined efforts to increase the awareness to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among the Latino community and emphasized the need to continue following health guidance from state and national health officials.

"Please follow the guidance of our public health professionals,” said Bishop Zarama. “Please stay home from Mass or work or any public space if you are sick or are experiencing symptoms of sickness. Please exercise great caution in this regard for yourself and also out of charity for the health and well-being of others.”

Last week, the bishop recorded a public service announcement in collaboration with Raleigh TV station WRAL. In a brief video message, the bishop spoke of his concern about the increasing number of cases among the Latino community and invited the community to continue following the recommendations of social distancing.

Bishop Zarama said that the dispensation from the obligation of Sunday Mass continues. When lifting the restrictions about parishes having in-person Masses and celebrations in May, the bishop described it as both an “exciting and anxious time.” Pastors throughout the diocese have been using good judgement in adapting how to offer the sacraments in each parish while maintaining charity and respect for the health of others.

“On Sunday, now we have different ways to participate in the Mass, and we need to find new habits to connect with God,” Bishop Zarama said. “It’s important to always ask, ‘How much time are you dedicating to God on Sundays?’”

The bishop also asked that everyone in the Diocese of Raleigh continue to pray for each other, especially for those who are ill or afraid, for health-care professionals and those whose daily lives are impacted by this situation. He stated, “No community is immune from contracting the highly contagious and, for some, a very dangerous coronavirus—COVID19.”

Despite making up just 10% of the state's population, those who identify as Hispanic or Latino account for about 46% of COVID-19 cases in North Carolina, a wide disparity also seen in other states. Therefore, many Spanish speaking pastors are strongly encouraging their parishioners to follow the recommendations to prevent getting sick.

Father Marcos Leon of St. Bernadette Church in Butner, has been speaking to parishioners, explaining the importance of preventing the virus and also sharing social media posts about the significance of wearing masks. In one of his videos, Father Leon encourages people to continue living their faith but using their will to prevent more people getting sick.

As Father Leon says, “God gives us will, and we need to do everything possible to prevent getting sick and making others sick.”