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Heard On Sundial: Threat Of Coronavirus For Immigrant Communities; Doctor Explores New Treatment

South Dade farm workers stand in a damaged field of okra plants after Hurricane Irma in Homestead, Florida City and Redland. "

On this Tuesday, April 7, episode of Sundial:

How are immigrant communities dealing with COVID-19? 

Florida might have issued a stay-at-home order, but many in the immigrant community can't afford to skip work. In South Florida, many migrants work the farm fields as “essential” workers and supply the produce we eat every day.

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These immigrants work in tight spaces, exposing themselves to the coronavirus, and usually work at jobs that don't offer paid sick leave. According to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization focusing on national health issues, about 45% of undocumented individuals lack health insurance.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration enacted a new policy known as the “public charge rule,” which has caused a lot of concerns for those wanting to access food stamps, unemployment and healthcare. 

Read more: Coping With The Coronavirus: Resources For South Florida

“I’m undocumented, could seeking health treatment make me vulnerable to deportation?” says Maria Rodeiguez is one of many questions her organization the Florida Immigrant Coalition has received since COVID-19. 

On today’s Sundial program, we gathered a panel of immigrant experts and advocates to look at how this community is dealing with the coronavirus and what resources are available to them. Guests: Elina Santana, a local immigration attorney; WLRN’s America’s Correspondent Tim Padgett; and Maria Rodriguez, executive director Florida Immigrant Coalition. 

"There have been some changes [in policy] but not enough," says Santana. "The courts are still open."

UM doctor explores new coronavirus treatment

Across South Florida, medical professionals scramble for ventilators and personal protective equipment. 

The need for the equipment has risen since the coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Roger Alvarez, a pulmonologist at the University of Miami, thinks he may have found another way to help patients that need ventilators using nitric oxide.

"Patients with COVID-19 often present low oxygen levels in their blood,” Alvarez said. “People will use nitric oxide to open up oxygen in the lungs and increase blood flow. The device is meant to be used at home."

Alvarez has been exploring the use of nitric oxide therapy, hoping it could reduce the need for ventilators and joined Sundial to describe how his new device would work. 

WLRN Sundial producer Chris Remington helped in the production of this episode.