Latino Workers Left in the Dark on Measles Outbreak?

Hasidic children in Monsey, one of the towns in Rockland County with a large Hasidic population. (Photo from Hasidim in USA via The Forward)

The Forward’s Ari Feldman reports that prior to Rockland County’s state of emergency declaration last week over a measles outbreak – concentrated mostly in the Hasidic Jewish community – little information had been relayed to the Latino community, many of whom work in Hasidic households or for Hasidic-owned businesses. The domestic workers interviewed for the story said they did not know about the outbreak before the announcement. While most workers would not be affected given the 90+ percent rates of vaccination in their countries of origin, Central American countries in particular, the disease could still impact the few who are unvaccinated.

“The business, the people who give us jobs, it’s the Jewish community,” said Luis Nivelo, a activist and a construction worker who lives in Spring Valley.

Nivelo said that few Latinos in Rockland County reported hearing anything from either their employers or public health authorities about the growing number of infections, which are mostly among children. He said that many people’s first time hearing about it was with the news over the state of emergency.

“We got a surprise when they were talking about how this is a real emergency in the past few months,” he said.

Nivelo, who frequently posts videos to his Facebook page about local issues, made a long video explaining in Spanish what the state of emergency was, and that measles is rarely contracted by people who have the vaccine. After he posted the video, Nivelo said that “a lot of people started calling me, a lot of people were nervous.” The video was viewed over 300 times in two days.

Part of the problem is that people in the Latino community were not familiar with measles or why it’s dangerous, and didn’t know the risks, Nivelo said.

Feldman also notes that there is “something of a Spanish-language news desert” in Rockland County. Go to The Forward for more on this and whether knowledge of the outbreak has affected any of the workers’ routines.

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