Segment Synopsis: Genoveva talks about her work as a public health advocate in California, detailing how her nonprofit’s main drive is to help low income, disadvantaged community members have the ability to live healthier lifestyles. A big portion of this work is ensuring community members have access to healthy foods and recreational spaces. Reflecting upon COVID-19 and how it intersects with her work, Genoveva notes that it highlights the lack of societal investment in healthy lifestyles that have resulted in larger numbers of people with chronic and underlying diseases that are at a compounded risk when contracting COVID-19.
In California, Latino immigrants and low-income communities are the most affected by COVID-19, losing their lives at a higher rate. The advocacy at Cultiva La Salud has shifted, given the conditions of the pandemic, to include much more direct service to community members rather than more broad scale federal policy. This more direct service, funded by an investment, has been directed at elderly Latina immigrants and includes services such as free masks, grocery shopping, financial assistance among others. Genoveva also shares how things have changed personally for her at work, sharing that one main shift has been being separated from other staff members. Another big change has been constant worries about exposing her clientele, given they are elderly and at higher risks, as well as Zoom fatigue.
Keywords: Coronavirus; Economic Impact; Healthcare System; Latinx Community; Low Socioeconomic Status; Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); Remote Working--COVID-19 (Disease); Rural Community--Access to Healthcare
Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); COVID-19 (Disease)--Prevention; Latino Americans; Latinos (United States); Social Interaction--United States
Segment Synopsis: Genoveva talks about how her physical and mental health concerns have shifted with the COVID-19 pandemic. One of her main physical health concerns now is making sure that she is active and doesn’t overeat while she is sedentary at home.
Additionally, she has postponed many preventative healthcare, such as dentist appointments, due to fear of contracting COVID-19 and potentially exposing the elderly Latina immigrants she is working with on a daily basis with Cultiva La Salud. Genoveva also discusses how the pandemic has affected her mental health, sharing that it has been difficult to maintain social relations and accurately read things like tonal inflections and body language on virtual platforms like Zoom.
Keywords: Health Services; Latinx Community; Mental Health; Social Distancing; United States; Zoom
Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); COVID-19 (Disease)--Prevention; Quarantine--United States; Social Interaction--United States
Segment Synopsis: Genoveva discusses the transition to online forms of community advocacy spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some significant drawbacks to online advocacy are that there is a smaller window to share remarks, speakers must remain muted for the entire meeting until it’s their turn to speak, and requests to make public comments have to be submitted very early on. These changes affect the amount of powerful, direct engagement that is needed when advocating for change.
On the other hand, one significant benefit of this transition is that the amount of people you can bring in for comments into council or board meetings is almost limitless, and participation is much easier. While the openness of participation in online platforms is beneficial to advocators, it also opens the doors to unwanted participants who join meetings to cause disruption.
Keywords: Coronavirus; Remote Working--COVID-19 (Disease); Zoom
Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Internet and activism; Non-profit organizations; Social Interaction--United States
Segment Synopsis: As a member of the school board, Genoveva talks about how education has shifted because of the pandemic. The area that her school board oversees is mostly low income and Latinx, so it has been very challenging to introduce distance learning within a context in which most students lack technology at home. In order to try to overcome this barrier, the school board deployed over 60,000 devices, such as tablets, hotspots, and laptops, to students that were in need. Additionally, there is an added barrier because most Latinx parents in the area don’t have much experience navigating the internet, and older teachers who are not easily adaptable to the new online learning environment.
Genoveva also shares that her district continues to provide school meals from Monday through Friday that include food for the entire family. The state government also implemented Pandemic EBT, a program for children that were already on free and reduced lunch, which provides students with extra funds in their CalFresh cards that sum up to around an additional 365 dollars.
Keywords: Education--Online-Learning; Financial Impact; Inequalities--Education; Latinx Community; Low Socioeconomic Status; Spanish language
Subjects: Education, Bilingual; Latino Americans; Latinos (United States); youth
Segment Synopsis: Genoveva speaks about how COVID-19 has changed family dynamics, emphasizing that one of the main shifts has been her concern for her mother. Genoveva’s mother is very independent and continues to run errands while wearing a mask, so Genoveva is constantly checking on where she is and what risks she’s taking on a daily basis. She also talks about how one of her sons has stopped smoking because of the pandemic, and how stress and tension has been more prevalent in interactions with her husband or in email.
Keywords: Mental Health; Pandemic; Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); Remote Working--COVID-19 (Disease)
Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); COVID-19 (Disease)--Prevention; COVID-19 (Disease)--Safety measures; Social Interaction--United States
Segment Synopsis: Genoveva shares that, from the beginning of the pandemic, she was very conscious of how deadly it was due to her background in public health. This weariness was compounded in the moment she learned hospitals were at full capacity in Fresno, where she is located. As a public health professional, Genoveva is critically aware of the United States’ failures in trying to stop and mitigate the virus, emphasizing her anger at the prioritization of the economy over the health of the community. She stresses this moment is pivotal in realizing there must be more investment in public health and community engagement.
Genoveva closes the conversation with emotional remarks countering harmful stereotypes about undocumented immigrants coming to take resources from citizens, highlighting how in the context of the pandemic, undocumented essential workers have sacrificed their health to continue providing services to others while being paid meager wages.
Keywords: Economic Impact; Essential Worker; Facility--Hospital; Latinx Community; Low Socioeconomic Status; Public Health Measures; Stimulus Check; Undocumented; United States
Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); COVID-19 (Disease)--Prevention; COVID-19 (Disease)--Safety measures
Thu, 7/16 10:57AM • 58:58
Latinx Community; Low Socioeconomic Status; America; United States; Spanishlanguage; Coronavirus; Economic Impact; Financial Impact; Mental Health; Stimulus Check; Undocumented; Pandemic; Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); Social Distancing; Remote Working--COVID-19 (Disease); Health Services; Facility--Hospital; Essential Worker; Public Health Measures; Minority women in higher education; Mexico; Education--Online-Learning; Inequalities--Education;
SUMMARY LOC SUBJECT HEADINGS
Education, Bilingual; youth; Higher Education; Farmworkers; Field laborers;Latino Americans; Latinos (United States); Spanish language; Spanish-speaking people (United States); COVID-19 (Disease); COVID-19 (Disease)--Prevention; COVID-19 (Disease)--Safety measures; Social Interaction--United States; Black lives matter movement--United States;
-- Dominique 00:09
Today is July 9th of 2020. My name is Dominique Montiel Valle and I'minterviewing Genoveva Islas for the Voces Oral History Center at The University of Texas at Austin. Please know, Genoveva, that this interview will be placed in the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at UT Austin. If there's anything that you do not wish to answer, or talk about, please let me know and I'll honor your wishes and we can skip that. Also, if there's something that you want to bring up that I failed to ask you about, please go ahead and bring it up.
-- Genoveva 00:49
-- Dominique 00:51
So, because we're not conducting this interview in person, I need to record youconsenting. So, I'll ask you a series of five questions. Please say yes, I agree or no, I do not agree after each one. And before we get on to all of them, there are two questions that we need to make sure that you agree to before we continue. Um, Voces wishes to archive your interview along with any other photographs and documents that you donate to me at the Benson Library at UT Austin. We will retain copyright of the interview and any other materials that you donate to Voces. Do you give Voces consent to archive your interview and your materials at the Benson Library?
-- Genoveva 01:38
-- Dominique 01:39
Great. Do you grant Voces copyright over the interview and any materials thatyou provide?
-- Genoveva 01:46
-- Dominique 01:47
Great. And do you agree to allow us to post this interview on the internet whereit may be viewed by people around the world?
-- Genoveva 01:55
-- Dominique 01:56
-- Dominique 02:00
So, we have many questions in a pre-interview form that you and I filledtogether yesterday. Um, we use that information from the pre-interview form to help researchers with their research. Um, the entire form is kept in a secure Voces server. Before we send it to the Benson Library, we would have stripped out any contact information for yourself or your family members. So that will not be part of your public file. Um, your public file will only be accessible at the Benson Library. Do you wish for us to share the rest of your interview in your public file available to researchers at the Benson?
-- Genoveva 02:40
So, the the just to be clear the items that you are in the sort of the personalidentifying items you're going to strip but you're asking if my personal identifying items could be shared with other researchers. Is that right?
-- Dominique 02:53
No. This question is, this question is just to ask you if you allow us to postthis interview at the archive.
-- Genoveva 03:01
-- Dominique 03:03
Okay, great. Um, and lastly, on occasion Voces receives requests fromjournalists who wish to contact our interview subjects. We only deal with legitimate news outlets and so we want to ask you, do you give consent for us to share your phone number or your email with journalists?
-- Genoveva 03:23
-- Dominique 03:25
Okay, perfect. Thank you so much for sticking with me through that. I know thatit's a little bit long, but we just have to make sure that you know that you're alright with everything before we continue. So, thank you for that. So just to get us started, you know, with the interview Genoveva can you tell me a little bit about yourself, you know, like your family, where you're from, what you do, things like that?
-- Genoveva 03:50
Sure. Um, so my name is Genoveva Islas Muñoz Peña Arroyo and that's justtribute to all my my grandmothers, um, I am first-generation born American, my family on both sides of my family my mother and my father side are immigrants from Mexico. And actually, my grandparents immigrated as well as my parents in my father's side, they all came together. My, so, my dad was a teenager and he came over with his mother and father. And then my mother's side. My tías actually came over, then my mother and then my grandparents came last. So, I'm very proud of that direct connection to, you know, my heritage. I was born and raised here in the San Joaquin Valley. My parents were both farm laborers. My father did eventually become a mechanic and that actually created a lot of stability for my family. But we did move around as in my youth. So, I have a in just reflecting in our assessment yesterday. I do have a lot of schools that I attended from elementary and junior high because of that, that movement of my parents following the migrant season. I am the first woman in my family to graduate with a master's degree. I have a master's in public health. And I have served in a variety of ways in my community. I am a public health advocate. I'm the founder and director of Cultiva La Salud. And our mission has been to work on supporting disadvantaged community members in having access to health promoting amenities, access to healthy foods, access to safe places to play. So, a lot of that has been policy advocacy, where we've been engaging with community residents and public policy processes to try to drive those investments and resources into the neighborhoods and communities where they live. And so, we're very proud about that work. We're a small organization, but we've done work throughout The San Joaquin Valley, we're based in Fresno, California, Fresno is the place I was born. But my parents did move around. So, I came back to Fresno for college. And I've been working here for several decades.
-- Dominique 06:14
Awesome. Thank you so much for that Genoveva. So, you mentioned you know alittle bit about your work with Cultiva La Salud. Um, I want to know a little bit about how, you know, bringing access to food to these communities and some of the other responsibilities that you have, how those have changed now with a pandemic, so, you know, you can go as detailed as you would like
-- Genoveva 06:39
-- Dominique 06:40
-how it's affected the nature of your work.
-- Genoveva 06:43
Yeah. So, um, I think there is a very interesting story line here because,certainly as public health advocates, our interest has been to drive those amenities into communities in order to help those residents, low income, disadvantaged community residents have the ability to practice healthier lifestyles. So, we know and and, you know, my degree is in health education. I know, you know, very well, the importance of education, right, that allows people to make healthier selections. It gives people understanding about how much physical activity to engage in. But if the context of where you live does not allow you to make healthy selections, or really inhibits your ability to be physically active, that's where we're seeing a much larger propensity of obesity and chronic diseases, um, in particular among Latinos and among, you know, people of color. And, so, that advocacy that we've been doing for a number of years has resulted in things like, unlocking of school gates because the gates, the school greenspace have been the only like park like settings available for safe recreation in communities. It has meant things like advocating for active transportation investments so that these communities can have sidewalks and streetlights and bike lanes. It has meant working to establish rezoning that allows community gardens to be set up in neighborhoods or farmers markets. Um, and it has also meant educating community residents about their role as advocates, so that they have, they can also be agents for change. It is It's one thing for a nonprofit to go in and speak with elected officials and try to drive changes. It is much more effective when the community living, um, under the jurisdiction of that elected official goes to them and talks to them about the challenges they're facing and the type of solutions that they want to see implemented. And if I think about the context of that work now under the pandemic of COVID-19, if our society had been investing more in keeping people healthy, we would not have as many people who have chronic diseases and who are vulnerable to, um, greater complications if they should become infected with COVID-19. And so what we're seeing here in the valley among Latino immigrants is that those we're seeing a very much like what is true playing out the rest of the nation, that Latinos and immigrants and low income disadvantaged community members are the ones who are mostly becoming infected, and who are unfortunately suffering and losing their lives because of that. And, and it is clear that just like I've mentioned that these are community residents who live in disadvantaged neighborhoods, these are also community residents who are essential workers, who are working in places that do not allow them sick leave, that are not providing them personal protection equipment, right. So, all of those factors create greater risk for them. And so, one of the ways that we have pivoted because of COVID-19 has been much more about direct service than we had done before. So, we're still very much engaged in policy advocacy. We've been very supportive in policy, local policy and state policy and even federal policy around things like anti-eviction ordinances, around things like anti water shutoff ordinances, around things like safety net for all campaigns that is trying to ensure wage replacement for immigrant and undocumented workers who have been left out of stimulus, stimulus relief. But it has also been about, you know, our advocacy in ensuring that schools are still providing meals, even though school's campuses have been closed, right. So, we've also been very involved in things like that. And the other way that, aside from the advocacy, that's been a pivot has been, as I was mentioning the direct service. So, we were lucky to receive a small initial investment. And we took that investment and decided, like who, who, in terms of the population that we've been working with, would be most needy at most in need of these resources. And so, what became clear is that elder, elder immigrant Latinos, really, were not receiving a lot of support, again, when you think about elder Latinos, these are individuals who tend not to have technology in their home, are at least experience with sort of social media channels where a lot of communication is being conveyed right now. And so, even when there has, been things like food distributions, they're often the last to know about them, because they haven't been a community that's been targeted for engagement. So, knowing sort of all of those factors, we made the conscious decision to target Latina immigrants, Latina elder immigrants, also because we know that in the traditional Latino household, women are the ones who are preparing food and the type of resource we're providing are groceries. So, we're providing food staples, you know, things like harina, and maseca, and tomates, and cebolla, and chiles, and all those things that can help them practice a healthy diet. And I will say this, like one of the most rewarding things about doing this work is that older Latina immigrants are such high consumers of fruits and vegetables, like the majority of the things they want are really healthy things, arroz, frijol, you know, a calabaza you know, we get a lot of requests for manzanas and naranjas and things like that, so, so that for me is a public health advocate is very rewarding that I know that, these, these low income disadvantaged community members really do prefer healthier items. And, and it really does counter the narrative that well, they're all consuming unhealthy foods because that's what they want. But the truth is they're consuming unhealthy foods because that's what's been most available and affordable to them. And we are really doing a disservice to younger Latinos and, you know, families when we are not providing healthier items to them. So, we do groceries we do that every two or three weeks to the target Latinas that we are helping in the program. Right now, we have about 75 señoras that we're helping. We're hoping to reach 150. So, we're almost there. Um, we also provide supplies and education. So, we are talking to them about hand washing, social distancing, wearing a mask, we provide them hand soap, we provide the mask, we give them face shields, we talk to them about, also, in our assessments of them, we identify who has diabetes, who has hypertension, who has arthritis, and we are also giving them educational materials about how to manage those illnesses. The last thing that we do, um, is we are giving other supplies like household cleaning goods because we know that their ability to clean their home and disinfect is also part of good prevention. So, soaps, disinfectants, deodorants, personal hygiene products, and a lot of them are more economically vulnerable because they may be living with an adult child who has lost work. So, one of the last features of our program that we've just incorporated has been financial assistance. So, we can help them with their utility payment, or their medications, or their co-payments, or a house payment or rent. And it's only $500 per person. So, it's, we can use it for any of those things. But it is a max and a cap of $500 per señora that we're helping. So that's been one way that we've pivoted both, you know, our work has really been about prevention. But right now, because there is so much need, we've pivoted to doing a little bit more direct service as well.
-- Dominique 14:51
That's amazing. That's extremely, extremely fascinating, Genoveva, thank you forsharing all of that. Um, it seems like the nature of what y'all are doing, right, has, has pivoted quite a bit as you mentioned, I want to hear a little bit if you would, about how COVID has impacted your work, personally, like, to you, like, your day to day life, so things like, um, you know, pay cuts or having to work from home or things like that. Just from your personal experience.
-- Genoveva 15:27
Sure, yeah, so um, you know, I actually was working from home before the shelterin place and sort of the, you know, stay at home orders that have happened here in California. So that part is not unusual to me. The, the working from home and I definitely have a setup where I have my printers and I have my computer I have Wi Fi right. But, one way that we have been impacted obviously, is that my staff doesn't work here with me. They're, they're working remotely. And for administrative things like it's much easier for me to type up a mailing label than to say, email my administrative assistant and ask her to do it, and then like, you know, bring it to me, like that doesn't make any sense. So, I have been impacted also just by the fact that I'm having to be much more solo in all of the things that we're doing. I mentioned before that a lot of the supplies that we've been ordering, like the household cleaning and hygienic products for the señoras, they're being delivered directly to my home so, we've set up shelving in my garage. And so, my staff will come over periodically when we have to make deliveries and we'll just create the care packages here. And then we go out and deliver directly. So, I think, even though most of my staff are working at home, there is still a level of exposure for them because, you know, they're just as committed and passionate about serving the Latino community as I am and these señoras, you know, just one side note like it is so rewarding to help these señoras because they'll say things to you like they'll greet you with a rosary in their hand and they'll say "Que Dios te bendiga, estoy rezando por ti, que dios te dé vida, right, like all of these things, just like so grateful for the work. So that is super rewarding. And so, my staff does also like really get excited about that service. But you know, we recognize that there is some exposure and so we are very careful about you know, making sure we're wearing gloves, making sure we're wearing hand - face coverings as we're doing the packages, we also spray down the supply packages just to make sure that we are not, you know, putting our señoras at risk by any exposure that we personally may have had. And then, like I said, though, they are going out and they are leaving at the doorstep and then the señoras will meet them there and take the packages into their home. So, so that is different, like we never really did that direct door to door drop off before. But again, like I mentioned, it's a pivot because we know there is so much need and, and we have been lucky to get more funding to do this. We are coordinating with a lot of direct service providers as well. Um, one of the things that's happened for seniors whence the senior centers were shut down, is that they've, there's been a severing of individuals who they used to go to for resource support. So, you know, if they needed help with a bill, or if they needed some help with their case manager or social worker, like that's a lot harder for them, because they're not used to navigating through, through necessarily cell phone or phone, or, you know, they don't have computers to do like internet searches for things. So, a lot of those needs, we're also trying to support them and figuring out who to connect them with for things that are outside of our scope of work or sphere of activity. And I would also say that like another way that the change in environment has impacted me is that, you know, I'm home all day with my husband as well. And, and, I am on a lot of webinars. Oh my God, I've had so many webinars like I'm, I'm, I think I'm Zoom burnt out by this point. But I feel like it's again, like everybody wants to continue to be connected. And there's so many more groups that are trying to organize informational sessions and they're all great, but it is taxing, right, like just not to have any break because your day is back to back with zoom or I'm personally back to back with trying to make calls with señoras and we're getting everyday calls from new people who are hearing about the program and who want to enroll. So, it is exhausting in that way. And it in that way. It's also very different from my typical day before COVID.
-- Dominique 19:50
Absolutely, no, I completely understand all of these things that you're sayingand thank you for sharing that with me. You know, you mentioned a little bit about, you know, how there is exposure and you're doing pretty much everything that you can to, to minimize risks in doing this sort of direct work that you're doing, and I kind of want to get a little bit on your take on how health care concerns have changed for you. Um, so, just, just thinking about your own health and how, you know, your work in conjunction to being concerned for your health, how that has changed. Um, if you could, you know, share a little bit about that.
-- Genoveva 20:32
I mean, I think I'm typical of a lot of people that, you know, being indoors andsheltering in place, you know, you're snacking and you're eating more, and I definitely gained weight from being at home. And so, I do try to be a little bit more conscious about taking breaks and taking walks to try to get in some physical activity. But, you know, my, my work has largely been office work and being at a desk and emails, right, like I'm chained to email, so, so not having a whole lot of physical activity in my day is, is pretty typical. But I think of other things that, so, when I talked about trying to mitigate risk, like, it's definitely much more conscious that I don't want to expose these very vulnerable señoras to, you know, me becoming sick and in some way, getting them sick. And also, if I would become sick, I would have to quarantine for two weeks. And that would be mean that some ladies would be without service during those two or three weeks until they got a negative test result, right. So, um, I have chosen actively like not to go to my dentist to get my six-month cleaning because I don't want to put myself in a position where I could inadvertently become exposed. And, um, and, so, I just decided consciously not to go to some of those preventative services. I do want to go back to them eventually. But I think about like, what is the priority and what is the need right now? And I'm not. I'm just trying to make sure that I stay healthy. And not, again, just doing things that are routine appointments if I don't absolutely need them, right. Um so, I think that's one way that I can mention is how it's I've interacted with health care. And I also just want to say like, I do have to go grocery shopping for these señoras, and my staff go with me, and we're having to buy, you know, all the fruits and vegetables and all the other milk and dairy and things that we purchase. And so, we do that once a week. And that's also intentional, because we don't want to go so frequently, because we know that at a grocery store could be a potential way of also having some community transmission. So, again, when we go there, we have aprons we have masks, we have gloves on, and we're just doing everything that we can because we're the same people that's eventually going to deliver those items to the señoras.
-- Dominique 23:05
Absolutely, yeah, I can imagine just all the things that you have to think aboutbefore, before going to do anything. Um, you mentioned a little bit earlier about, you know, having all these webinars and how everybody wants to connect online. And, you know, we're, like, hearing Zoom fatigue. And so, I want to hear a little bit, as well, about how that has affected your mental health. And how the pandemic in general, like, being at home and all of these things that come with it, how it has affected you mentally? If you could share a little bit that would be great.
-- Genoveva 23:43
Yeah. So um, you know, I do regret that I was never really active in Zoom withmy siblings. And now like, it does feel really unnatural to, you know, FaceTime my siblings to be like, 'Hey, how are you guys doing?' Like, we text, or we call but it's, it's just very different. And I think I shy away from using that technology with my family just because I have to use it so much for work, right? And, um, and so, yes, I am just constantly, you know, even having virtual meetings with staff that aren't necessarily like a Zoom webinar. But you know, we do sometimes have to get online in a virtual meeting, so that I can show them some process of how to do an online form, or how to create something or we're reviewing materials together. So that's another way where, you know, we're also interacting virtually, but I just, I see the need and I see the benefit of it. And I also see the disadvantage because it's not like we are having in person meetings where I can hear the tone and the inflection in a comment or a voice, or see the body language in total, right, that helps also convey very important information. Um, all you're seeing is a head on a screen. Right? And that's, you know, that's not, I don't know, it's, it seems very, I don't know what to call it, I'm searching for a word, but it just seems very removed, that it does, it, it would be a horrible way to try to build relationships with people that you've never known before, right. Um, I have a group of friends, we call ourselves the angry brown women and we have scheduled Zoom sort of coffee hours or Zoom cocktail hours. And that's fun, because you know, you're just kind of joking and their friends and their people, you know, and you don't have to worry about, did I say something politically incorrect, right, like you can just let your hair down with them. And, so, that is a little bit more refreshing. But I still wish that we could do the, you know, get togethers or, you know, go in the backyard. We used to do movies at night in the backyard, and we would sit there, we'd do like a book club reading or something like that. And so, that, you know, obviously, we're all trying to protect ourselves and protect each other. So, there has been distancing. And that hasn't happened, you know, during this time, either. So, I do feel like there's, like, it's harder to make new relationships through Zoom. And it's also a challenge with keeping the relationships you have when you're only interacting them through these virtual forms.
-- Dominique 26:40
Absolutely, I can, I can very much relate to a lot of things that you're sharingfor sure. Um, you know, you mentioned the group that you're part of, angry brown women, and that, you know, brings me back to how you're involved in a lot of advocacy, not just public health advocacy, but you mentioned yesterday, you're also, you know, the member of a lot of groups that are, you know, invested in social change. Um, and I guess one of the things that I want to know a little bit about is how has advocacy changed, and especially in the context of the social movements that are happening right now, um, in conjunction with COVID, right? How, how has that changed for you in the way that you engage and are doing that kind of work?
-- Genoveva 27:26
Yeah, I think there is advantage and there is disadvantage. So, let me startwith the disadvantage. Um, the disadvantage is that you can no longer go into a council chamber meeting and, you know, go to the podium and make your remarks directly right to the elected officials. You're now having to enter in through a Zoom call and you're muted for the entire meeting. And you have to you only get like this small window or there are things where a lot of the boards and commissions here locally will say, well, if you want to make a public comment, you have to do it by noon the day before, because it's going to be recorded and transcribed. And then the commissioners or the, you know, the city council members have some time to read it. And then you know, it can be. So it feels very, very much a disadvantage, because it's not the same sort of direct engagement that advocates used to be able to have, right, or even the idea of, like, filling a boardroom because you're mobilizing community residents to come and demonstrate the power of the will of the people in advocating for that change. But I will say that, the other side to that coin is that, you know, you might have been able to bring a dozen people, but online, there, it's limitless. I happen to sit on a school board and, so, we on average during a regular school board meeting would maybe get a dozen people that would comment. In whatever last school board meetings there were over 200 comments that were submitted. Right. So, it, in some ways, it makes it easier for people to participate, because they don't have to leave their home. They don't have to drive to get to a meeting somewhere else. You know, they're not missing dinners or meals because they're at some meeting where they're trying to give their comment or testimony. So, that like I said, there's advantage and there's disadvantage. And I think that, you know, good advocates are really going to maximize the advantages that are created. And they're also going to push back on the disadvantages that have been created. Because it does seem very unnecessary to have to submit comments so well in advance and not have the ability to make comments, that's how we did historically. And so, I would say that's one way that I am seeing a change. I do know that there have been a variety of ways that local governments have tried to manage public participation and engagement during this time. And I think some of it, you know, it's for a reason. A couple of, one example I'll give you is that here locally, as they've been having conversations around Black Lives Matter and police reform, there has been very racist comments that have come in and very inappropriate people, you know, engaging in virtual platforms, right. So, so it's awful, you know, racist things have been yelled out, and people have the protection of, you know, blocking their video or changing the name, right, that's, that's being listed for them. So, they can't, there is this anonymity that's allowed, that allows the worst of people also to take advantage of those situations. So, you know, those things are real. And so there's a balance for me, right, about how you try to shield those ugly nasty things from, you know, entering these conversations about local government, but then you also need to be careful that you don't create blocks for those good intentioned people that do want to provide testimony and help inform the decision making.
-- Dominique 31:12
Absolutely. Um, we had similar situations at, you know, Zoom here at school. Um,you mentioned that, you know, you're attending these school board meetings and that you're active in that scene. And that's something that we've been very interested in knowing about and talking to educators and people involved with education. So, if you could tell me a little bit about how COVID has changed the way that you know, your children or your community receives education, blocks that have surfaced and so on, that would, will be awesome.
-- Genoveva 31:51
Yeah, I mean, I think this, there are a lot of things that are specifically,particularly true for immigrant communities, again, in low income residences and Latinos. So, for example, here in Fresno, we pretty early knew that there was going to be a tremendous challenge with distance learning, because many of our students did not have technology in their home. And so, we deployed over 60,000 devices and those devices included tablets for younger children, laptops for older middle school and high school students. And we've also even deployed hotspots for those students that are living in areas that have minimal Wi Fi connectivity. And still it's not enough, right, like there. There are relationships that we've worked on with, you know, corporate organizations like Comcast, in order to help expand the free Wi Fi service that they're providing. Our district also chose to move buses that had Wi Fi on the bus into neighborhoods so that children in those disadvantaged neighborhoods had access to Wi Fi. And, and, again, it's no perfect system because you have to be in close proximity to those buses in order to use the Wi Fi on them. And that, the heat that we're experiencing right now just really makes it unbearable for a student to be out there for a long period of time, you know, next to this bus, even in the shade, the temperatures are still very hot, right? So, um, so yes, you know that, that distance learning is not ideal. There are a lot of people who are not able to successfully participate in distance learning. You know, our parents, in particular, Latino Spanish speaking parents, they don't have a lot of history with having to navigate websites, having to search for curriculum by age group, you know, being able to understand the lessons that are being conveyed to their children. If you have parents who have had very limited academic access, it is impossible for them and incredibly stressful for them to feel like they're letting their children down, because they don't have more education. And so, it is just very heartbreaking. You know, and I feel like I'm, as an elected official on a school board, I really am unsure about how we're going to help kids catch up, because it doesn't even seem like we're anywhere near the opportunity to bring all of our all of our kids back onto campus. So, you have to balance both, right, like, what do we do in absence of them being on campus? How much can we potentially begin to move to on campus without creating undue exposure for young children? We have had cases of young children testing positive, you know, luckily, there haven't been too many in our area that have succumbed to it. But we know nationally, there are children who have, right, who have had complications. And one of the issues about the San Joaquin Valley, just a quick side note is that we are the agricultural center of California, this six county region that creates the San Joaquin Valley, we are 1% of the agricultural farmland of America, but we produce 25% of all the table foods for the nation. So, there is agricultural being mass produced. And as a result of that, there is a lot of environmental degradation. And so, our region is actually a region that does have a very high incidence of asthma, which is again a risk factor for COVID. So, these are complications that you know, you, we have to be conscious of. And unfortunately, we are seeing an increase in cases here. So, I am very worried for those children who have vulnerabilities in catching the virus and, and having you know, severe complications as a result of their, their pre-existing conditions. So just back to the point of distance learning, it's, it's not ideal. It's all we have. And we need to still continue to figure out how we do it better. And I will say, the other part of that equation is that we actually have a lot of older teachers who are not internet savvy, who do not know how to use a lot of the tools and technology that are available. And so there does have to be a lot of retraining or training for many of them, in order for them to be able to maximize the use of their skills and time in service to our students. We've done some assessments that actually showed a very small percentage of our teachers are actually connecting to their students during all of this time. And some of it has been, you know, those teachers have families and they're trying to take care of their families as well. Some of it is that parents didn't have updated contact information. And other of it is that, you know, some of these teachers are really struggling with adapting to online learning as well, and that they are limited in terms of their linguistic capability. And so, if they have a population of students that are mom that are Spanish speaking, that are other language speaking, it makes it very difficult to engage with those families and those students. So, these are crises and challenges that we knew before COVID, we knew we needed more bilingual educators. That's something I think across our nation, we know. But, you know, it's exacerbated. And I think that is something that we have all learned as a result of COVID is that it has exacerbated and amplified all of the weaknesses and the disadvantages and disparities that existed before.
-- Dominique 37:48
Absolutely. Um, thank you for sharing that. Um, I think one of the things thatyou had mentioned previously is, you know, that a huge issue in the region where you're at is food access, and in conjunction with, you know, our conversation right now that a lot of these schools are in low income communities. Has there been anything that has been done by the school or other institutions to provide food and sustenance for, for kids that may rely on that from school?
-- Genoveva 38:20
Yeah, so I'm very proud that at my district, we have continued to provide schoolmeals. And so those school meals have been Monday through Friday, on Fridays, they've been given additional meals to help them over the weekend. And they've, we've organized it where a parent can come and actually pick up breakfast and lunch together. And it's going to feed everybody in their household. So, if a parent came and said, I have four kids at home plus two adults, we would give them the six meals, the six breakfast and six lunches for everybody, right? And, so, that to me is an example of, you know, an educational institution really helping to support community in a time of need. And so, I think that's one way, right, just making sure that our schools continue to operate those school meals. When you think about it, our educational institutions are, are one of the only large kitchen, kitchens that are regularly serving a large number of meals. And they are public institutions, our tax dollars go to the creation of those kitchens. And so, they should be playing a part in service to community by continuing to use those kitchens even when those schools are closed because of COVID-19. So, the school meals is, one. Certainly, in our area, we have a very well-established Food Bank. And so, we have seen the requests into that food bank escalate. And those food banks have actually increased the number of distribution sites that they've been regularly doing in community and that's helpful. And then I want to connect to two things that are, I know are resources that the state and the federal government are doing that I think are very beneficial. And more, more things like that should be happening. So, one is here in California, we elected to operate Pandemic EBT. And what that means is that for school aged children, who were already on free and reduced lunch, they were getting an additional allotment on their CalFresh card in order to help support them so they could still get the free meals, they're still getting their CalFresh and they're getting an additional amount on their CalFresh for each child that participated in free and reduced meals. And that was about a $365 additional per month. And the deadline for that is fast approaching, July 15 was the deadline for people to enroll in Pandemic EBT. But everybody that was, that was previously on free and reduced lunch, they were automatically enrolled. So, this was, this enrollment period was only for those people who weren't automatically enrolled. So that's something that our state elected to do that I think is a really great example of what more states could do. And at the federal level, something that the federal government has done, and that has been a benefit are the Farmers Boxes to Families program. And basically, I'm sure this has happened where you are. But in California, there has been a breaking of the food chain because of COVID-19. Restaurants closed, right? So many farmers lost markets where they were selling their produce and goods to and so the Farm Box to Families Program is supporting those farmers who have lost markets in retail sales. It is acquiring that produce for them. It's putting those items in boxes that have a variety of produce and products, and then making those boxes available for needy families. Right. So, I think that's an investment at the federal level that was smart. And that does have benefits to community. So, I think things like that, you know, hunger is real. People have lost jobs, they have lost wages, they're worried about how they're going to stay in their home or their apartment. And now they're worried about how they're going to continue to feed their family. So, the more that we can organize and address those needs, I think, is better to preventing people from becoming desperate, and then taking on risk behaviors or risk activities that would expose them and their family to COVID-19.
-- Dominique 42:41
Thank you so much for sharing that, all of this is incredibly fascinating. Like,thank you so much for sharing all of this -
-- Genoveva 42:48
Oh, you're welcome.
-- Dominique 42:49
I want to pivot a little bit and go back to a while ago when you mentioned that,you know, one of the biggest changes for you has been that you know you're now at home, working all day with your husband, we want to know a little bit about how COVID has impacted, you know, you and your family dynamics, how those have changed. And so, if you could share a little bit about, about that, that would be great.
-- Genoveva 43:16
Sure. I mean, I think, um, you know, there is this recommendation just toshelter in place, and not even to visit or have like family gatherings. And on Father's Day, we did have a family gathering and it was really hard. Like, there was this really hard decision about like, oh my gosh, should I be wearing a face mask, but these are all people I love and, and, you know, my, my husband told me afterwards that it was the best Father's Day that he ever had, because all of the kids were together. And certainly, it's been months since we've been able to see them. So, I think, you know, at no other point would we ever have worried about having a family gathering or the guilt about having had a family gathering but there is also this reality of exposure and exposure exposing others. So, you know, when, when we first heard about this happening, I have a 77-year-old mother and she lives about two hours away from me. My mom is incredibly strong. She's incredibly independent. She has a better memory than me, right? Like so. Um, you know, and she's been a farm worker and a laborer all of her life. Um, very independent. So, I was having these conversations with my mom, "no vayas pa fuera. no quiero que salgas," right, like, "just stay at home, you're at risk. I don't want anything to happen to you." And maybe she listened to me for about a week. But then after that, she was just like, "no, no, no," like, "me voy a poner la máscara y tengo que hacer mis mandados and I have to do this." And I remember one time I was still under the false belief that she was listening to me and staying home, and I walk in the door and there's a bag of pan dulce on her table. Well, we don't have any panaderos that sell in neighborhood. So, I know she had to have gone out to the panadería to go buy the pan, right. And so, I'm just like, "mom, pa que andas afuera?" And, and so there, there is that, like, that's a change of a dynamic right? Like now I'm the one worried for her and worried about what risks she's taking on a daily basis. And those roles were flipped, right? Like as a child, I know she would be just as worried about, you know, taking long for me to come home from school and "where were you" and "why didn't you come straight home type of things," right. And, and I call her, you know, I'm almost on a daily basis just to check up on her. But, you know, the reality for my mom is also she's been someone who has helped her community, a lot of people do go to her for advice and support. And so, she takes pride in that. And so, it's very hard for her to disassociate entirely from the community that, you know, she's very connected to. So, you know, I think in my generation, my cousins, like, we're all, like, okay, we're not going to visit, but we're gonna still like call each other and just check up on each other. And so, we're much more conservative about like, "oh, no, you can't come to my home right now because of this COVID mess." But you know, with my nuclear family, my, my mom in particular, I do check up on her, I do visit her every other week, at least. And I am again for the same reasons that I'm worried about exposing my señoras I'm worried about exposing her too. So, you know, I make sure that we're providing her hand sanitizer and masks and gloves because I know she will go out without me, you know, wanting her to. But yeah, I think that's the way the dynamic has fixed. And then when I think about my sons, my sons are millennials, right? And they know everything. And when I talk to them about wearing a mask, they're like, let me show you how the mask doesn't stop anything. And they'll go get like a spray bottle and do these experiments with me and I'm like, who sneezes as hard as a spray bottle. You're not going to get the same, like, you know, pressure coming out of a mask, right? Um, so, it's funny just to hear them, but, you know, one thing with my younger son is he was a smoker. And when I began to talk to him about, you know, the threat of his lungs, and should he become infected and how he's really putting himself in a vulnerable position, like I have noticed he has stopped smoking right now. So, I feel like that at least was advantageous. But, um, yeah, I think for me and my husband, you know, being around your partner, if you're in your honeymoon period is wonderful. I've been married to my husband for 16 years, and we're very comfortable with each other, but we can get on each other's nerves. I'm not gonna lie. So, I, you know, sometimes I'm over here in my little desk area, I'm really concentrating, trying to get something that I met on deadline, and he'll be asking me these random questions. And I'm like, "can you not see that I'm working over here that I'm trying to focus?" And he's like, "oh," you know, "well, excuse me." And so, it's like, there's tension over like, insignificant things like that, right? But um, I think you know, it's, it just all goes back to feeling like you are sequestered and just the stress and anxiety about what's happening in the world. And you know, we're human and that stress, whether we want to believe it, consciously or subconsciously is affecting us, and that it does affect our reactions. Like, I feel that I have a much shorter fuse sometimes in some of my interactions, even in email. Like, I, I consciously think, like, I don't want to say anything that is too abrasive or aggressive because I, I know everybody else out there is struggling, and I don't want to add another layer of that stress. But then when I get an email that's kind of harsh, I'm like, mad, like, why isn't he thinking about my stress? Or, you know, like, why aren't they being reciprocal in their tone and, and just email we know is just not a good way to communicate either for all of the reasons about tone and inflection and all of that, but, but yeah, I just feel like, there is some, you know, sensitivity and stress that we're all under that needs to be appreciated.
-- Dominique 49:10
Absolutely, absolutely. Thank you for sharing that, for sure, that's, that's acommon theme that we've heard from our interviewees. Thank you for sharing that. Um, and I want to kind of finish off, you know, a question that we've been asking everyone that we've been interviewing is, you know, when did you realize, like, and you can use anecdotes, or if you remember a particular day, when did you realize that COVID was the serious thing that we know that it is today, you know, I feel like we all kind of went through our own journeys with that first interaction with it. Um so, sort of when you realized that it was what it, what it is?
-- Genoveva 49:51
Well, I think I've always, I think from the beginning, I've been very consciousabout how deadly this is. And so, you know, again, my background is in public health, I've done HIV/AIDS case management. I was in the 80s case managing, you know, farm workers who were positive and who, you know, really were unaware about disease transmission and how they got infected. Right. And so, I knew, like, this thing is much more transmittable, right? Like, you're not having to have sex with somebody in order to become infected. And so, there were just things like that for me that did, did make me feel like this this is really serious, look at all the cases that are happening worldwide. But you know, it's, there was something about the trigger when we hit 125,000 deaths a couple of weeks ago, and also here locally, where we are at the point here in Fresno where all of our hospital facilities are maxed out right now. Right, like we don't have any more available beds and people are recovering. And that's great, right? And we've always known that there is that reality that some people will get sick, they may have complications, but that they can recover. And we've also known that some people will get sick and they will be asymptomatic. But for those people in that 20%, that don't recover, right, like, even some of those people were, were healthy, right? And so, we don't really know who is going to have the worst outcome and, or who is, is going to be okay, even despite the pre-existing conditions that they may have. Um, and so, I think for me, there have been these couple of days. You know, the day that we heard that our hospital beds would reach had reached 100%. And the day that we became the, the, the, you know, America as the number one country of cases that were very sad for me, right, because I also, as a public health professional, certainly understand that we have failed in a variety of ways in stopping and mitigating the stress that the spread of the virus and, and I am infuriated, I am infuriated by our president, I am infuriated by local elected officials who have cared more about our economy than the health and well-being of our community. And I understand social determinants of health, right. Like I know that poverty is also an indicator to poor health outcomes. But I feel like we can take incremental steps in reopening our economy that maintain safeguards, right, there is no reason why farmworkers should be working in the fields without personal protection equipment. There's absolutely no reason why we have to allow in dining at a restaurant when those restaurants can continue to do takeout. Right. So, things like that, we don't need to open our movie theaters. Right? That's not a priority right now. Um, and I think as a public health person, I also want to say that part of the reason I think we in America really caught with our pants down, is because of all of the years of disinvestment in public health. We have dismantled mental health infrastructures. We've dismantled public health infrastructures. So really our public health departments cannot operate right now without the partnership of community-based organizations to do the testing and tracing that needs to happen now also. So, I really hope that the spotlight on public health right now does not go away. That one of the things that come out of this is that we all learn how intricately connected we all are to each other, how we become more loving and supporting to each other as a as a nation and as communities, and how we really do invest in keeping a strong public health system in place that can help safeguard any future pandemics that are yet to come.
-- Dominique 54:06
Before we end Genoveva, I just wanted to ask you if, you know, if there'sanything else that you would like to share with me, you know, about your experiences or your community's experiences with COVID, um, that I haven't asked you about yet or that I haven't mentioned. This is just an opportunity for you if you have anything that you feel, um, hasn't been addressed, to bring it up.
-- Genoveva 54:30
Yeah, well, what certainly is on my mind is those immigrant community memberswho have been afforded little to no relief. Um, we know when the stimulus relief that came out to most of us as Americans, our immigrant community members were left out of that. And even here in California, where we have consciously decided to do an undocumented immigrant relief. It's only $500 and it's one time and it's not enough for every immigrant undocumented immigrant family, so we're not reaching everybody in need. And I do think we need to be conscious of that and we need to correct it. We need to understand that those immigrants are the ones that are keeping us alive right in, in our farm working community. They are the people that are literally picking the fruits and vegetables, tending the dairies, you know, in the poultry and beef factories that are turning out the meat and vegetables and fruits and all the other products that end up on our shelves in grocery stores, those grocery store workers who continue to work every day, those food service workers at our schools and, you know, institutions, you know, they really are the heroes that we can't forget about and they deserve better. Right. It is a privilege I feel, definitely, that I get to work from home, that, you know, I have a degree and that I am in a position where I, I have had essentially been able to maintain my same income, and that my family has not had to struggle in ways that I know other, other of our neighbors have. You know, it is definitely a point of privilege. And I think it behooves those people who are in those positions of privilege to call attention to the needs of their neighbors, and of others in their communities who do need more support right now. And that, that shouldn't be something that is a moral dilemma. Right. Doing the right thing should not be a moral dilemma. And there should be a counter to the narrative about, you know, people who can't pull themselves up by their bootstraps or immigrants just taking, right, like, right now, immigrants are giving, they're giving in very big ways. They're, they're sacrificing their own health and well-being in order to get meager wages to support their, themselves and their families. But the people that they're benefiting the most are us. So, I think things like that in the, in the Latino community, for the immigrant community really are stories that do need to be lifted up and shared. Because I, I'm really tired of those dominant narratives that belittle and degrade our community.
-- Dominique 57:23
Thank you so much for sharing that with me Genoveva, that was really, reallystrong. And, and, you know, I, you know, we all feel that way, as well. Um, so, thank you so much for speaking with me today. Everything that you shared is so, so fascinating about your work and your life and how things have changed. So, you know, we really, really appreciate that, you know, you took the time off of what I'm sure is a very busy day to share.
-- Genoveva 57:53
The power of stories and I'm just grateful to you all to lifting these up. Soagain, just commend you for the good work you're doing and definitely will continue to try to connect you with others who, you know, have another slice of this story that I think is really important to be heard and documented as well.
-- Dominique 58:09
Absolutely. Um, Thank you so, so much. And we'll be in contact with one another.If you have, you know, photographs that are interesting, you know, like you and your staff wearing masks or you know, your, your new workstation, stuff like that, that you want to share with us and donate. That can be part of your, your file in the library. That would be awesome. You can just email those to me.
-- Genoveva 58:35
-- Dominique 58:36
We would include those with the interview. But we'll, we'll be in contact aboutthe señoras that we'll speak to as well. But thank you so much. It was great to meet you.
-- Genoveva 58:46
Likewise. Yes. Okay. So, I definitely will look through my, my iPhone and seewhich photos are interesting and send them your way.
-- Dominique 58:54
Awesome. Thank you so much. Have a great day.