No need to avoid COVID-19 testing out of deportation fear, Wyandotte County health officials say


KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Wyandotte County health officials want to put misinformation to rest when it comes to testing for the coronavirus.

They’re hearing that some people don’t want to get tested out of fear of deportation.

Building trust and ramping up testing is part of the Healthy Equity Task Force’s job. They’re taking the fight against COVID-19 into community neighborhoods, like Argentine.

“If you have any symptoms at all, we are now testing people that have even the most minor symptoms like headache, sore throat, fatigue,” Wyandotte County Health Official Allen Greiner said.

“But we think there’s at least 10 times the cases of COVID out there than what we’ve detected. There’s probably even more than that.”

Greiner is concerned that people in the community aren’t getting tested because they’re worried about being able to work and, in some cases, scared of getting deported.

“It’s really been a challenge, and we’re going to keep working hard to pump up the testing as much as we can,” Greiner said.

Dr. Sharon Lee, CEO of Family Health Care, said immigrants should not fear getting picked up by ICE or expelled from the country.

Health care workers will not ask if you are documented or undocumented, Greiner said, nor will they pass information to governmental entities. 

“The only thing is to try to find way to stop this virus,” Lee said. “So it has only to do with where do you work, how many people are in your home, who else might have been exposed, where do you think you were exposed? Those kinds of questions.”

Family Health Care offers screenings. Lee said they’ve seen an increase in Spanish-speaking people and people with Spanish surnames in the last week or so.

But Lee said they still need to test more people who have symptoms. So community leaders can work with a well-rounded view of the virus. 

“It’s so important for us to know what the virus is doing in our community,” Lee said. “Policy makers are making their decisions on whether it’s safe for us to go to the grocery store, whenever it’s safe for us to go to a Royals game, based on info that they have from these tests.”

Health care facilities and officials across the metro have also worked to break language barriers that might keep people from being tested. 

“We’ve been trying to do things in multiple languages, including for some of the refugee population,” Greiner said.

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