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Get the latest news about the novel coronavirus from Iowa Public Radio and NPR News.

Immigrants Can Face Additional Challenges With COVID-19

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Kyle Glenn
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An estimated 5 percent of Iowans are foreign-born.

Advocates who work with the state’s refugee and immigrant population say the group has faced some additional challenges as more COVID-19 cases are confirmed in the state.

Stephanie Moris, the Director of the Refugee Alliance of Central Iowa, which works with immigrant and refugee-focused non-profits across central Iowa, said she’s heard reports of Iowans who come from an Asian background facing additional discrimination because the novel coronavirus -- which causes COVID-19 -- originated in China.

"We do have people who are being targeted, because you know, of their Asian background, their Asian appearance, whatever the case may be about," Moris said.

Additionally, Moris said getting information out on COVID-19 also can be especially challenging for the state’s refugee and immigrants, many who have family and friends in other parts of the world who have been greatly impacted by the virus.

"As of right now, if you don't speak English, you can't access 211," Moris said. "You can't call your healthcare provider to follow up with treatment or to make an appointment. You can't even call 911."

Moris said she’s working with non-profits to establish a statewide hotline similar to 211 that will provide COVID-19 information and support geared toward the state’s foreign-born population, which makes up about 5 percent of the population.