Dealing with COVID-19 when English is not your first language

Mar 23, 2020

Buffalo's West Side is filled with people from everywhere, speaking languages from other countries and with an understanding of the world beyond most of us. Many wind up at Jericho Road Community Health Center for their health needs, from birth to death. And now, they have to deal with COVID-19 as families juggle no school, different languages and a health care system that can be hard to navigate for a native Buffalonian with good health coverage.

"Some of our patients who came as refugees, they're resilient and they've been through a lot to get to this point. So they don't really seem to be panicking the way that other people in this country are panicking about this," said Dr. Allana Krolikowski.

Krolikowski is chief medical officer at Jericho. She said free coronavirus testing hasn't been an issue.

"This hasn't really come up with our patients, that I've heard, but definitely note the concern around the country," Krolikowski said. "There's a lot of uninsured people, people who are under-insured, and that concern of giving care and appearing at the hospital if they're undocumented, for example. It is good that it's a free test."

Krolikowski said patients who come in appear aware of the problem and why their kids aren't going to school. She said there appears to be word of the virus and its dangers circulating through different refugee communities across the country.

"The community aspects to life in some of our patient populations really has led to more understanding, potentially," she said. "I've been asking patients. They said, 'Oh no, we're not going to the mosque. We're not going to temple. Patients are going to church. Oh no, they told me not to come to church.' And so they're pretty aware."