School’s back in (virtual) session for millions of Latino students across our nation’s largest school districts. Because some COVID-19 spread data has not been accurate, districts like New York are uncertain about when to return to class, and teachers in L.A. are fighting to keep school virtual for the safety of their disabled and non-English speaking students. 

This week’s “5 Essential Updates” for our gente includes why the digital divide is bringing students to a fast food parking lot, how our small family gatherings could be just as dangerous as going to a busy restaurant, and how one Latinita is spreading joy to frontline workers. 

1. Funds for internet access  —  A photo of two young girls relying on Taco Bell’s internet to do schoolwork went viral in late August. Kevin De León, a California State Senator said the photo highlighted the “digital divide.” In a state that is home to the tech-hub Silicon Valley, 40% of Latinos don’t have access to the internet. Luckily, these students now have hotspots, but many others remain without access…. 

2. Latino family gatherings & risks —  Experts say that the closeness Latinos have in our families may be one reason we’re getting sick at higher rates. Small get-togethers, even among extended families, can be as dangerous as large parties. 

3. COVID & children’s mental health —   A Latino advocacy group in Houston surveyed over 300 Spanish-speaking, low-income families and found that child mental health was a main concern for parents. Over half of those surveyed said their children’s mental health was declining throughout the pandemic. 

4. Latino “casketeers” overwhelmed —  Mortuaries serving Latino communities have been overwhelmed by grieving families since March. In some cases, bodies of coronavirus victims are stacking up as funeral directors improvise ceremonies that would normally include extended family. One funeral home is holding services with limited attendance, while other guests pay respects from their cars.   

5. Cake-pops for frontline workers — Even the smallest gesture can have a great impact. Just ask 10-year-old Bianca Salerno about her cake pops. When the coronavirus hit Philadelphia, where her dad is a surgeon, she started baking cake pops and putting them into goodie bags for hospital workers to thank them for their service. Now, even adults are following her lead and adding baked treats of their own to her bags! 

With information from Luna Olavarria Gallegos and Lisann Ramos.

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