Tampa Mayor Jane Castor gave a bilingual interview with Noticias Univision Tampa Bay and Orlando Senior Reporter Filippo Ferretti Tuesday morning to update the Hispanic community on coronavirus and provide information on how to stay safe as the virus spreads.
The interview was shared nationally and in Puerto Rico. Reaching the Hispanic community amid a health crisis is crucial as those communities are less likely to seek help either due to language barriers or fear of deportation if individuals are undocumented.
“When it comes to matters of public health, it’s paramount that we reach all members of our community — and that includes our Spanish-speaking residents,” Castor told Florida Politics. “Tampa is such a diverse city, which is why it is critical that we communicate through bilingual messaging so that everyone has access to the information that they need to stay safe and stay informed.”
Castor answered questions in English, which Ferretti then translated for viewers in Spanish. Topics ranged from how to avoid catching the COVID-19 virus to whether kids were safe in schools.
“There will be more cases to come, but there is no reason to panic,” Castor assured viewers.
She repeatedly reminded viewers that the best way to stay safe is to practice good hygiene including washing hands in hot water for at least 20-seconds frequently throughout the day, avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth, limiting physical contact with others through things like handshakes, staying away from people who are sick and staying home if you are feeling sick.
Castor called those precautions “very, very simple ways you can avoid the coronavirus.”
Castor also urged viewers to ensure they were receiving accurate information.
“There is so much misinformation going around and that information is what causes panic,” she said.
Residents can also text “TampaReady” to 888777 for virus updates in English or “TampaLista” to the same number for updates in Spanish.
Two coronavirus cases have already been confirmed in the Tampa Bay area including a woman in her 20s who recently traveled to northern Italy where there is a sizable outbreak and a 60-year old man in Manatee County.
“That particular case is more worrisome,” Castor said.
The Manatee County case involved a man who had not traveled to an at-risk country recently and who did not have any immediately known contact with someone who did. Health officials are still investigating how he contracted the virus.
Florida received test kits to detect the coronavirus on Saturday after previously having to send samples to the CDC in Atlanta for analysis. That means tests can be processed more quickly at testing centers in Tampa, Miami and Jacksonville. Because of the better access to testing, officials including Castor expect more cases to be reported.
But Castor assured viewers the community was prepared.
“The emergency management group here in the Tampa Bay area is in close contact with the airport, with the port and with the health care providers,” she said. “We have the procedures in place. So we just need all of our citizens to take the necessary steps.”
“Just to put the viewers at ease, if you are healthy, then this will be like having the flu,” Castor assured.
She said people who are most at risk are the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.
A viewer asked about student safety at schools. Castor reiterated that younger individuals are less likely to experience severe health issues if they contract the coronavirus.
“The schools are at the least risk as far as harm from the coronavirus,” Castor said. “We had a health care professional … who said that closing down any of the schools, he felt like that was a mistake.”
“With that said, kids still need to take the same precautions — washing their hands, asking them not to touch their face, if that’s possible.”
For those who might have symptoms associated with COVID-19 — things like coughing, shortness of breath or fever — Castor said those individuals should call their health care provider to determine whether they need to be tested for the virus.
If a test is deemed necessary, individuals would provide a throat, mouth or nasal swab, which would then be tested at a Florida testing center.
If someone tests positive, not everyone will require hospitalization. It’s estimated that up to 80% of cases can be treated at home. In those circumstances, it’s important for individuals to isolate themselves as much as possible. The CDC recommends self-isolating to a room as much as possible, wearing a mask and avoiding contact with other people and pets. The CDC also recommends avoiding leaving the house other than for medical visits, if necessary.
Castor also answered questions about a claim President Donald Trump made that the virus will dissipate as temperatures warm as Spring approaches.
“That is one piece of information that has come out, but that hasn’t been tested completely,” Castor said. “But there is the viewpoint that when summer comes that will kill the virus quicker.”
Castor also urged residents to go about their daily lives as normally as possible as long as they aren’t experiencing symptoms. She also said people traveling domestically should have little reason to worry, pointing out that Tampa is less at risk of contamination than other airports because they have fewer international flights than places like Orlando or Miami.
“Tourism is really a way of life for us here in Florida so we just really want to communicate,” Castor said, noting that international travelers are being screened at Florida airports including Tampa International.
“As we have always been, we will be very very transparent with information and keep our citizens up to date with the most accurate information,” she continued.