DENVER (CBS4) – As COVID-19 cases in Colorado trend in a positive direction, one group is being hit hard than others. The Latino community accounts for 38 percent of all cases statewide. That’s more than any other demographic.

In Denver, cases among Latinos have increased over time more than any other group.

Denver police say illegal gatherings could contribute to a spike in coronavirus cases. Those gatherings include car meet ups and traditional cruising around Federal Boulevard.

Federal Boulevard

(credit: CBS)

The largely Latino community along Federal Boulevard has been cruising down the stretch for decades.

At a news conference Thursday, police and city leaders say the tradition is not only leading to an uptick in violent crimes, those gatherings could be impacting the community’s fight against coronavirus.

“It’s a public health issue that affects the entire community,” said Clinica Tepeyac CEO Jim Garcia. “As the Latino community goes, the entire community goes.”

At least 80 percent of Clinica Tepeyac’s patients are Spanish-speaking immigrants. Many of them are essential workers with no other employment options.

“Before COVID-19 people that came to Clinca Tepeyac are people that work two or three jobs to support their families. Now that we’re in the middle of COVID that really hasn’t changed,” Garcia told CBS4’s Andrea Flores.

(credit: CBS)

Clinica Tepeyac has served Denver’s Latino community for 25 years. They provide general health, mental health and dental services to underserved communities. That work continues as public health data shows COVID-19 cases among Denver’s Latino population are the highest in the state.

“When COVID-19 hit in full force in March we, like many of the community health centers, switched to telehealth visits,” Garcia said. “What we found for our patient population was that turned out to be a major challenge.”

Access to technology and testing sites, language barriers, and lack of information have contributed to the issue.

“Our Latino community has front-line workers and they are assuming these higher risk positions because they don’t have many good alternatives to provide for their families,” said Garcia.

Clinica Tepeyac’s biggest platform for community education usually happened through community outreach and in-person. But due to social distancing measures in place across the state, most of the information they share with the Latino community is taking place through social media.

With multi-generational families living under one roof, Garcia says cultural norms like large family gatherings in densely-populated neighborhoods could contribute to the spread of cases.

“Those types of large gatherings can be extremely harmful, and that’s the message that we try to reinforce at Clinica Tepeyac,” Garcia said. “It sounds repetitive, but the social distancing and masks are incredibly important.”

In addition to the health care services they already offer, Clinica Tepeyac will start offering their own drive through coronavirus testing site at their Globeville location next week. All staff members are bilingual and can provide patients access to their long list of services.

Andrea Flores