This story was produced as part of a joint effort among Spotlight PA, LNP Media Group, PennLive, PA Post, and WITF to cover how Pennsylvania state government is responding to the coronavirus. Sign up for Spotlight PA’s newsletter.
HARRISBURG — The Wolf administration added Spanish captions to a web stream of its daily coronavirus briefing Friday, one day after a Spotlight PA report raised concerns about the lack of equal access.
The administration had been criticized by a coalition of Latinx advocacy groups in the Philadelphia area, which said the absence of captions deprived thousands of residents of basic information needed during a fast-moving crisis.
“It’s huge, it’s contemporaneous,” said Will Gonzalez of Ceiba, a Philadelphia-based economic development nonprofit that called for the change. “As a community, we need to announce it to the world.”
The state Department of Health has also updated its website to include fact sheets and other materials translated into Spanish, as well as additional information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“There are many in Pennsylvania for whom English is not their first language, and we have been working to ensure that those individuals and groups are also getting these very important updates,” Health Secretary Rachel Levine said Friday. “If you have a friend or neighbor who needs this information in their native language, please share it.”
On Thursday, a spokesperson for Gov. Tom Wolf said changes were in the works.
“Over the last few years we’ve scaled up accessibility options,” the spokesperson, Lyndsay Kensinger, said. “We recognize that importance and are very eager to find new ways to keep improving.”
More than 1.3 million people in Pennsylvania speak a language other than English at home, according to census information. Roughly 500,000 people in the state speak English less than “very well," and about half of those people speak Spanish.
Gonzalez said providing a Spanish translation is “no different than the importance of the sign language interpretation,” a service that has been offered via the daily video updates since the outbreak began.