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Local Latina woman felt it was her duty to get COVID-19 vaccine

Mireya Ochoa works with seniors and recently lost both of her grandmothers as a result of the pandemic
Published: Mar. 5, 2021 at 12:03 AM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Across the Commonwealth, Latinos are being infected with coronavirus at twice the rate of white Virginians, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

One Latina woman in Roanoke is encouraging others in the community to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and explains why it was so important for her to get vaccinated, in our series “Shot Clock.”

Mireya Ochoa received her second dose of the vaccine as part of group 1b, and it left her with much more than a tingling feeling.

“I feel safe now,” Ochoa said. “We have to take responsibility and take care of the folks out there.”

She bears great responsibility in her community, working directly with seniors at Brookdale Assisted Living in Salem.

Every day Ochoa goes through her health checklist, before heading out to work where there are more precautions, like the use of personal protective equipment.

“We are on the front line,” she said. “We don’t stop working; we’re always out there facing the pandemic.”

Ochoa is not alone working on the front lines at places like assisted living facilities. Latinos make up a third of essential workers, according to CDC data. Health officials say that is one reason Hispanic Americans are at higher risk of COVID-19 infections.

However, Ochoa is thinking of her patients.

“The people that live in these facilities, that’s their home. The way I think about it is it’s my grandma, and I’m going to visit her,” she said.

There is a sad reason behind the comparison. She lost both her grandmothers late last year.

“They both died a month apart from each other,” Ochoa said.

Although they were in Mexico, not the United States, coronavirus played a role in both of their deaths. One grandmother succumbed to the virus.

“She got hospitalized and then passed three days after her admission,” Ochoa said. “We weren’t able to see her, to say goodbye for the last time. So that was really hard on the family.”

Her other grandmother had separate health problems, but hospitals were too full with COVID patients for her to be admitted for care. She died at home, alone.

“It made me put my feet on the ground. It’s not someone that I knew died. No, it’s my grandma who died,” Ochoa said.

The band-aid from her vaccination shot doesn’t heal the blows already dealt by COVID-19, but Ochoa still leaves feeling a new level of protection and duty.

“When it impacts my family is when I started seeing these people like my own grandmother,” she said. “So that really hit me and made me stop complaining. Because I have no right to complain when someone lost the battle against COVID.”

While Ochoa encourages the local Hispanic community to get vaccinated, she says the biggest obstacle she’s seeing is the language barrier.

There are several efforts in the Roanoke Valley to provide information in Spanish. We’ll explain that part of the story Tuesday, as we continue our “Shot Clock” series.

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