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Fear of deportation among undocumented immigrants, may prevent them from seeking medical care if they have symptoms of COVID-19.

BY KARMINA L. FONSECA

In the face of new cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19), New Yorkers continue to prepare for the disease by following the protocols given by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, such as: washing hands, staying home if feeling sick, and seeking a health care provider or hospital if they present symptoms of the disease.

However, among undocumented immigrants, concern of losing their daily income or fear of deportation might prevent them from seeking medical care if they are sick with the dangerous coronavirus.

David, a carpenter from Corona, Queens, who preferred to give only his first name for fear of reprisal from his employer, expressed anxiety about visiting a doctor if he presented symptoms.

“In my country [Guatemala], not here,” he said about visiting a doctor in the United States for fear of being detained by authorities. “I am one of those that are not afraid of the disease. You have to take good care of yourself. You have to know who you are hanging out with”.

Like David, who arrived in the U.S. only a few months ago, many undocumented people in our area do not visit the doctor because they fear ICE could record their information.

According to immigrant advocacy groups, the ones who are most afraid are always undocumented immigrants. Due to panic of being detained, they prefer to keep quiet about any dangerous situation. In the case of the coronavirus, the consequences of not visiting a doctor can be very serious.

“As the mayor and the governor said, no one should be afraid. In New York everyone is safe, no one is recording their information and no one is asking about immigration status,” said Anthony Chiarito, Director of Communications for the 38th District Councilman Carlos Menchaca office, president of the Immigration Committee. “The public hospitals in New York will test you for free”.

According to Chiarito, the Health Department plans to go out into the streets, parks and businesses to distribute information about the outbreak and has also designed a website in several languages where people can learn about the latest on the virus: www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/health/health-topics/coronavirus.page .

“We can’t expect them to come looking for the information, we have to go to the people, so we plan to send letters and emails to the community,” said the communications director Chiarito.

Chiarito added that the virus is being monitored but the responsibility lies directly with the people. “They should always wash their hands, not panic and go to the doctor if they have flu like symptoms. If you have a chronic condition or a compromised immune system, take extra precautions,” he emphasized.

Although David doesn’t feel comfortable going to a doctor in New York City, if something serious happened to him, the Guatemalan acknowledges that he would seek out the nearest physician in the event that he became seriously ill with the coronavirus; he also would stay home from work.

“That depends on the symptoms that the person has,” he said about whether to work or stay home if he didn’t feel well. “In the past I have gone, but only with common illnesses like the flu and because I had to work. But, if it’s a fatal illness, you have to take shelter with a doctor. You have to look for the solution to prevent death”.

Also, according to the latest reports from the New York City Council, the New York City Health + Hospitals network will be providing care regardless of health insurance status or ability to pay.

“With the best public health system in the world, New York City is ready and prepared to face the Coronavirus head on,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio recently in a press conference. “We will continue to take every step necessary to keep New Yorkers safe.”

Additional reporting by Bianca Silva and Lucy Cabrera

This story first appeared on noticiali.com.

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