Imagine that within the span of a few short weeks, a global pandemic dramatically altered the course of your life on the Island, changing laws you thought were sacrosanct and forcing you to familiarize yourself with terms like social distancing, stay-at-home orders, moratoriums, new ferry schedules and rules at your workplace — all in an effort to keep you safe.

Sounds pretty familiar, right?

Now imagine all that happening, and English is not your first language.

That’s why Martha’s Vineyard Hospital communications director Katrina Delgadillo, who manages the hospital’s community benefit program, and Thaddeus Thompson, who serves as the hospital’s diversity, equity and inclusion liaison, have partnered with community organizations throughout the Island to make sure that crucial information and guidelines regarding the coronavirus outbreak are communicated to the Vineyard’s most at-risk populations. Those populations include the elderly, the homeless, people of color, and importantly, those who aren’t native English-speakers.

“On a national level, it’s very, very clear that the pandemic is in fact affecting communities of color at a higher rate,” Mr. Thompson said in an interview with the Gazette. “We’re using multiple vehicles in order to address it here.”

For Ms. Delgadillo and Mr. Thompson, who also serves as the hospital’s administrative director for clinical and perioperative services, addressing language barriers has been one of the primary focuses of their mobilization over the past month-and-a-half — particularly with the Island’s large Portuguese-speaking Brazilian community.

“Within patient care, you need to be able to speak to people,” Mr. Thompson said. “As much as you are able to speak to a person in their native language, you will clearly deliver more high-quality care.”

Internally, the hospital has developed a text-messaging system with Partners Healthcare for their non-English-speaking employees to receive important updates about new rules and regulations, like protocols for entering the building, how to properly don and doff personal protective equipment and who counts as essential staff. Hospital pharmacy manager Valci Carvalho has also been translating messages for staff when the information is more local or immediate. Recently, Mr. Carvalho put out a Portuguese language podcast that shared updates and information about the virus to the community.

“During a pandemic, you have a little bit more anxiety about language,” Ms. Delgadillo said. “You want to make sure that everybody is receiving information in a language that they feel the most comfortable and confident understanding. That’s been our goal.”

The hospital has also made advances for non-English speaking patient care. Interpreter services are now directly integrated into telehealth and virtual visits. And in an effort to make sure immigrant populations are comfortable reaching out to the hospital, officials have made it clear that citizenship status is never asked — and that contact tracing efforts remain anonymous and confidential.

“Every effort is made to be really explicit about the fact that information will not be asked about your status. So we try to make people comfortable in that way,” Mr. Thompson said. “And the other part of that, of course, is the advantage of having that information delivered in the individual’s language.”

The hospital has also made it a goal to coordinate its language outreach efforts externally. Two weeks ago, Ms. Delgadillo and Mr. Thompson organized a phone call with the hospital’s community partners, including Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, Healthy Aging Martha’s Vineyard, Island Health Care, the Island Food Pantry and the school district, among others. The focus was on bringing together different community organizations, all geared toward providing assistance to at-risk populations on-Island.

“It was just a quick one hour, but really made a difference because I think communication is number one when you’re trying to pull together so many different groups to have a common goal,” Ms. Delgadillo said. “In an emergency, you want to make sure that nobody is duplicating efforts, but that you are coordinating.”

Mr. Thompson said many people who aren’t familiar with the hospital might instead be familiar with Community Services, so it would important for the two organizations to share information.

“We are always conscious of the fact that we may be the only hospital, but we are not the only agency on-Island involved in delivering information, or in delivering health care for that matter,” Mr. Thompson said.

This week, the hospital distributed coronavirus care kits to community members at the Island Food Pantry. The kits, which are basically small bundles that include local information and educational resources, like access to the Islanders Help Facebook page, as well as masks and thermometers, were focused on at-risk Islanders who might otherwise not have access to medical supplies or information. “We want to make sure that people are aware of all the tools on the Island,” Ms. Delgadillo said. “We want to make sure that those socio-economic challenges, and access to resources, don’t impede someone’s health because they are not able to get what they need.”

Informational resources are now almost always provided in both English and Portuguese, including testing updates and hospital press releases — all of which are translated by Mr. Carvalho, Junior Oliviera in the hospital’s finance department, administrative assistant Rachel Vargas or an individual with the board of health (“We pull a lot of favors from staff,” Ms. Delgadillo said). The hospital also now has a shared Dropbox with Community Services for new documents, like how to put on masks, that they can distribute to groups like the Martha’s Vineyard Builders Association.

“It’s really been an effort that brings the whole community together with a common goal,” Mr. Thompson said. “Which is education, resources, and also just trying to make sure that everybody is aware of this virus, and how to prevent the spread of it.”

Ms. Delgadillo and Mr. Thompson hope the efforts continue — virus or no virus.

“The one silver lining in this is that we can walk away with these strengthened relationships, even after the pandemic, hopefully, comes and goes,” Ms. Delgadillo said.