Most vulnerable communities concerned about reopening amid COVID-19 pandemic

PITTSBURGH — While most of southwestern Pennsylvania moves to the yellow phase Friday, some of the most vulnerable communities of the COVID-19 pandemic have concerns about reopening too quickly.

The coronavirus forced Marlyn Parra to cut staff to 60% at her Venezuelan restaurant, Cilantro & Ajo in the South Side. A 50% decline in sales followed because they’re only able to offer takeout and delivery.

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This business is reflective of many Hispanic businesses during the pandemic. Moving to the yellow phase is progress, but many have major concerns.

Parra told Channel 11 one major concern is the language barrier.

“Maybe we need more information in our language to try to understand what’s happening now and what changes we are facing,” she said.

Melanie Marie Boyer, Director of the Pittsburgh Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, knows the issues firsthand.

“There are people who have done everything the right way. They’re going through the process and their families have been unable to get stimulus checks,” Boyer said.

COVID-19 has also hit the black community hard.

“(I’m) definitely hesitant, I would encourage folks in my community to stay inside,” said Jasiri X, CEO of 1Hood Media.

A lot of that hesitation about reopening has to do with the need for more resources. Getting coronavirus tests has been a challenge as well.

“Black businesses have not been able to receive the funding that’s supposed to be available to small businesses,” he said.

But there has been some progress in community centers that mostly serve minority communities.

Primary Care Health Services just received 1,000 COVID-19 tests. Community Health Centers expect 3,000 in total.

Allegheny Health Network is using mobile units to offer more testing as well.