Utah offers critical COVID-19 information in 23 languages

Coronavirus Updates

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – The governor said this he could issue a mandate on face coverings but won’t. Governor Herbert believes Utahns will voluntarily do the right thing. But, not everyone in the state speaks English well, and there is a big push to get COVID-19 information to people in their native tongue.

Salt Lake County found out early on that language access is extremely important during the pandemic.

“What we are looking at is about 120,000 individuals in the county, county residents who are born outside the United States,” said Salt Lake County Director for New Americans Ze Min Xiao.

The county found roughly 40 percent of those individuals speak English less than well.

“If we release information in just English, we are missing out on about 45,000-50,000 folks,” she said. “And in the middle of a pandemic when information is so critical, we don’t have the option to pretend that doesn’t matter. So language access becomes a really big priority for Salt Lake County.”

COVID-19 information from SLCo Health

In March, the county began distributing COVID-19 information in languages like Vietnamese.

Soon, the state would jump in providing materials in 22 different languages.

“What we have discovered is that in addition to translating the material, we will just simplify it. We want to make sure it is relevant to the community that we are communicating too,” said Xiao.

Then there was a call to local leaders who are people of color to push the messaging like wash your hands for 20 seconds and wear a mask.

“And when people see pictures, people hear from community trusted members about the importance of face coverings for instance, that resonates with them, and the message gets to them a lot better,” she adds.

The county and state are exploring more social media mediums to distribute COVID-19 information.

Officials say they rely on local partnerships to address minority communities COVID-19 needs, and in return, they can test the community’s most vulnerable populations for the virus.

Jason Nguyen
Jason Nguyen is an award-winning reporter and photojournalist who is back with ABC4 News as the lead reporter on Good Morning Utah, bringing over a decade of news experience to the team.

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