Latino Chamber Launches “Protege a Tu Familia, Protege Su Negocio” : Conducting Healthy Business

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Jessica Cavazos (with her son Kaled Xopin) and the Latino Chamber of Commerce are initiating a vaccine promotion campaign targeting businesses and families.

Part 2 of 2

By Jonathan Gramling

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the Madison area in mid-March 2020, the Latino Chamber of Commerce had a lot on its plate. It had to make sure that it while it was sheltering in place that it would be able to survive. And as many of the Chamber’s members are frontline businesses, the Chamber had a duty to assist them in staying healthy too, financially through government grant and loan programs and physically. As the pandemic took root last year, the Chamber teamed up with the Latino Health Council.

“We had a campaign called ‘Negocios Seguros,’ which means Safe Businesses,” Cavazos said. “They provided masks, flyers on how to keep the workplace safe and bilingual materials. We did a lot of outreach to our businesses. A lot of our businesses are frontline, service

businesses. A lot of our small business were either cleaning companies, restaurants, mom and pop stores and other service businesses.”

And as the COVID-19 vaccines began to roll out this spring, these relationships were the basis for the Chamber’s “Protege a Tu Familia, Protege Su Negocio” vaccination campaign.

“The Latino-owned businesses have now become catalysts in disseminating the information to their communities,” Cavazos said. “Everyone goes to the supermarket. Everyone goes to the hair dresser. Everyone goes to these small businesses. Why not have them be our key ambassadors to the vaccine campaign. The campaign happened through a DHS grant that we applied for. It’s primarily to do outreach here in Dane County, but also rural communities surrounding Dane County. We’re creating access and creating access to information. As an organization, the billboards are going to be starting pretty soon. We’re happy we didn’t get on board sooner as far as promoting the vaccine goes because there were a lot of organizations that were doing the vaccine promotions. Now that Wisconsin is 50 percent vaccinated, now the work is going to start. What’s going on with the other 49 percent of the population? How do we get them motivated? How do we get them educated? How do we get them confident about their decision to get vaccinations and where do they go? A lot of the questions now in this campaign are about where people go in their community.”

In May, only 44.5 percent of Dane County’s Latino community was vaccinated. Many members are still uncertain and are hesitant. And they have to decide whom they trust.

“I think with Latino and African American community members, there are still a lot myths,” Cavazos said. “I see that in my family. A lot of people are waiting to see. I have about five of those friends out of my mix of very close friends. There are only two of us who are vaccinated. We ask them and the reason is they are basically waiting to see if the reaction that is going to happen in six months after the vaccine. Even these hypothetical stories that are being told out there about reproducing the variants and everything are something else. I got vaccinated in April and I’m still here. I’m doing well and I’m healthy. All I can be is that ambassador to them. Some people won’t get vaccinated no matter how much you want them to become educated and you want to promote it and you want to make sure they know that when they are ready, those places are still open.

Through its presence in the community, the Chamber has become a place where people come to get information they trust.

“We’ve had people come in here and they just need information and they want to go to a safe place and talk to someone safe,” Cavazos said. “We want to give them that access. There are so many wonderful professionals here in Dane County who are happy to sit down and go through some of the myths that are out there with people.”

And if the people can’t come to the Chamber, then the Chamber will take the information — and the vaccines — out to the people.

“We kick it off this week and it’s going to go through the last week of August,” Cavazos said about the campaign. “We’re going to have it in our Carts in the Park, which is a new project the Chamber is working on at Penn Park. We’re going to be having a vaccination information booth so that people can come and ask questions and have people understand whether they are in the medical field or work on the vaccination

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campaigns in the state to answer questions. We’re still partnering with the Latino Health Council on providing vaccination access at clinics. We held one in Sauk City about a month ago. We’re going to continue to find partnerships, getting to the companies that are out there so that their employees can get the information and feel safe about it. I really feel it takes a community of people to get others on board.”

The Chamber has also set up a website where people can go for information at https://lccwi.org/protect-wisconsin.

“There are websites for members of our communities who are fearful whether you are undocumented, and whether you are vising the state of Wisconsin,” Cavazos said. “There are these rules that people should know. They don’t have to show their ID. They don’t need to prove that they are documented. They may have to share their home address or where they live. They shouldn’t pay to get the vaccination or pay a consultant. Some people say, ‘I’ll get you a vaccine if you pay me $25.’ There are those kinds of people out there trying to scam others. The website is very helpful because it tells people what can and what can’t be said and done. There are vaccine policies that people aren’t aware of.”

It is through community, that the Latino community will rebound from — and stay healthy — the COVID-19 pandemic. And the frontline is the Latino businesses, which are at the heart of Latino community life. If the people are healthy, the businesses will be healthy. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. Get vaccinated!