While the pandemic prompted a successful virtual celebration in May that replaced the dancing in the streets that typically takes place during San Francisco’s Carnaval, there’s much to be done to help The City’s disproportionately ailing Latino community.
With Latinos accounting for half of all of the positive COVID-19 cases in The City, but making up just 15 percent of the population, the need for assistance and education is pressing, said Roberto Hernandez, Carnaval’s artistic director and executive producer.
So the Carnaval board of directors, collaborating with multiple city agencies and Mission District nonprofits, has created a resource fair in the Mission on Labor Day weekend. Everything at the Sept. 5-6 event – from COVID-19 testing and health screenings to groceries to employment opportunities – will be free.
Months ago, Hernandez said, as it was clear that there would be no parade or festival for Carnaval’s 42nd year, he told the Carnaval board of directors, “Let’s take our synergy and our infrastructure and let’s do something for the betterment.”
Hernandez, a member of the Mission Neighborhood Health Center board who co-founded the San Francisco Latino Task Force on COVID 19 and started the Mission Food Hub (which is serving some 7,000 families three times per week), said, “We’re on the ground, we hear every day what people are going through,” adding, “We need to start healing, we need to start recovering, we need to get out of this crisis. We have a plan.”
Taking place in two locations, at John O’Connell High School and on Harrison Street, Latino COVID-19 Healing & Recovery-Salud es Poder will feature: coronavirus testing; women’s health, diabetes, blood pressure and dental screenings; mental health services; distribution of groceries, masks and sanitizer; help for families and schoolchildren in accessing technology at home; housing referrals; and a job fair with some 20 employers on hand doing interviews on the spot, along with information about unemployment benefits.
“Thousands of people have lost their jobs. They’ll never go back,” said Hernandez, noting that he encountered five restaurants that closed for good during his attempt to get brunch on his birthday, and that some of the people he sees waiting in line at the Mission Food Hub are people who worked in those restaurants.
Seeing a need to continue to educate people, and reiterating that people still need to wear masks, stay six feet apart and wash their hands, Hernandez also is keeping a positive attitude that Carnaval’s colorful parade and festival, attracting 400,000 over two days, can happen in 2021.
While this year’s online festivities in May were “amazing,” drawing more than 50,000 viewers, Hernandez admits that it was “sweet and sour” to miss the live music and dancing this year, particularly for the children who took classes and were excited about their costumes.
Still, some people are preparing for next year. “The most hopeful bunch, the most joyous group of all the people in the universe are Carnaval people,” said Hernandez. And because nobody got to use their costumes this year, he said, “They are being specially handled. Love is being given to them. They’re going to be extravagant.”
IF YOU GO
Latino COVID-19 Healing & Recovery-Salud es Poder
Where: COVID-19 testing at John O’Connell High School, 2355 Folsom St.; resource fair on Harrison between 18th and 20th streets, S.F.
When: Noon to 5 p.m. Sept. 5-6
Note: COVID-19 testing entrance at 20th and Treat streets, S.F.