“Vast Majority” Of Those Interviewed By COVID Tracers Don’t Speak English

The Minnesota Department of Health has to employ translators to track the spread of coronavirus as the "vast majority" of people it needs to speak with don't know English.

The “vast majority” of individuals who need to be investigated to track the spread of COVID-19 in Minnesota don’t speak English.

Contact tracing is the process by which individuals who have likely had contact with the coronavirus are identified before they show symptoms to help track and contain the disease. This week saw a 66% increase in confirmed cases of coronavirus in Minnesota, meaning that a huge amount of contact tracing needs to occur rapidly. However, the fact that 40% of the state says it can’t speak english “very well” has become an issue.

Kris Ehresmann is the director of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention, and Control Division at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). She says that the “vast majority” of the individuals contact tracers have to interact with don’t speak english as their first language, per a local news outlet. This has created a demand for interpreters who can help officials investigate who may be responsible for spreading the virus.

Kris Ehresmann speaks at a press conference with Governor Tim Walz.

“Investigations are very thorough,” Ehermann says, explaining how officials will meet with those infected with the virus within 24 hours of their positive test result to begin assessing who they may have spread COVID-19 to.

At the outset of this week, the MDH had 150 so-called case investigators heading up this effort. By the close of the week 160 more will be added, according to Ehermann.

About 12% of Minnesotans don’t speak English in their homes, per the state. However, in some counties this figure is even higher– 17% of Hennepin county residents don’t use English at home, per MPR News. Only 42% of Nobles County reports speaking the language “very well.”

The most popular non-English language in Minnesota is Spanish, followed by Somali and Hmong.

9% of Minnesotans are illegal aliens, per the University of Minnesota.