How To Safely Use Interpreting Services During Delta and Beyond

Earlier this year it seemed there might be some light at the end of the tunnel in the Covid-19 pandemic. Case rates were falling in the United States, and vaccinations were rising rapidly. Unfortunately, the Delta variant has caused another wave.

The good news is that protecting your staff, clients, and interpreters from Delta is mostly a matter of a “safety first” mindset and some forethought.

Recognize That Delta Is Different

This new variant is deadlier, more likely to infect people under 50 and harm them once they are infected, and is much more contagious. The original variant of Covid-19 had an R number of between 2 to 3. This meant that if someone was infected, they would likely infect 2 to 3 others during the contagious phase of their case. Epidemiologists estimate that the Delta variant has an R of between 5 and 9. This means we’re dealing with a virus that can spread quickly even without careless behavior.

Though infections in fully vaccinated people are quite rare even with Delta and seldom lead to serious symptoms, they must be guarded against. Those who suffer from a breakthrough infection will be sidelined for 10-14 days, hampering your organization’s ability to accomplish its goals.

Continue To Follow CDC Guidelines To Provide Baseline Safety

The specific steps you take to protect interpreters, Limited English Proficient (LEP) persons, and your staff are important, but they will only succeed if there’s a baseline of safe behavior that already makes Covid-19 transmission less likely. The CDC guidelines will give you a clear set of procedures that work to slow spread.

Consider the Way Interpreters Work

In-person interpreters are often in close contact with LEP’s. This is especially true in courtroom situations, where an LEP defendant or plaintiff may need to whisper with the interpreter and attorney to avoid being overheard. Therefore, it’s important to have LEP’s and staff wear masks even if they are vaccinated, and if possible seek a recess for extended consultations.

When you can, conduct discussions in settings where all participants can maintain 6 feet or more of separation, or connect virtually. In-person interpreting is generally superior to phone or video remote interpreting (VRI) but video does allow participants to go maskless.

Consider what equipment or procedures might help reduce exposure, and consult with your interpreter to develop the right mix for effective interpreting in your situation.

Keep Interpreters Informed

You may be asking interpreters to deal with appointments that are Covid-related, such as testing, vaccination, and safety checks. Make sure you brief the interpreter on this ahead of time.

Promote Vaccination

The numbers are still sifting out, but early data indicates that unvaccinated people are about 400 times more likely to be hospitalized or die of Covid than those who are vaccinated. The vaccines are reducing spread as well: States that have the lowest vaccination rates are seeing far more cases per capita than those with high vaccination rates.

Simply put, the best way to protect yourself, your staff, and your interpreters is to get everyone vaccinated as soon as possible. If we do, we can make our way out of the tunnel unscathed.