Texas coronavirus deadliest for people of color

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The southernmost county in Texas, Cameron, is home to only 1.5% of the state’s population, but accounts for almost 5% of its known deaths from COVID-19.

Cameron County, where 89% of residents are Hispanic and nearly a third live below the poverty line, stands out as a clear example of the widespread disparities in the COVID-19 results. Across Texas and the nation, the new coronavirus is deadliest for communities of color and low-income communities.

These disparities, and a host of other demographic information, became more apparent this week when new counting methods at the state health agency revealed a more complete picture of who has died in Texas and where. Trends showing that black and Hispanic people had been disproportionately affected by the virus were clear nationally and apparent in local snapshots, but as of the beginning of this week, limited demographics from the Texas Department of State Health Services they had clouded the picture of those disparities across the state.

Hispanic Texans represent approximately 40% of the state’s population, but account for 48% of their known COVID-19 deaths. Black Texans also appear to be slightly overrepresented in the number of fatalities, accounting for 14% of deaths, but only 12% of the state’s population. Texas reported a total of 6,190 deaths Wednesday night, an increase of 313 from the previous day.

By contrast, White and Asian Texans died at lower rates relative to their share of the state’s population.

Sometimes called the great equalizer, the new coronavirus has been anything but a deadly reality in a state like Texas, where the Hispanic population is expected to become the state’s largest group in mid-2021.

The disparities should not have been a surprise, said Jamboor Vishwanatha, director of the Texas Center for Health Disparities at the University of North Texas Health Science Center.

“What COVID did was essentially shed a bright light on existing disparities,” Vishwanatha said, citing disparities in rates of pre-existing conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular problems, as well as social factors such as income inequality and access to care. medical. “You would expect something like that to happen.”

Research has found that higher-paid employees are more likely to have the option to work from home, and that black and Hispanic employees are less likely to be able to work remotely. In Texas and across the county, frontline employees such as janitors, supermarket employees and transit workers are more likely to be women and people of color, an Associated Press analysis of the US Census Bureau data revealed. USA

That forced low-income workers and people of color to risk their health on the job, exposing them to the virus while others earn a salary from home.

“Many of these people, particularly at first, were exposed to the disease,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, at an event organized by the Texas Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science.

Benjamin said that a higher prevalence of chronic diseases like hypertension and heart disease is contributing to the disparities.

Geography has also played a role. Many of Texas’ deadliest hotspots have emerged in communities of color: among the immigrant workforce at meatpacking plants in the Panhandle; in Houston, one of the most diverse cities in the country; and in the Rio Grande Valley, where the population is predominantly Hispanic.

In general, the majority of deaths have been recorded where most Texans live, in large cities such as Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, El Paso and Austin. But some counties, such as Cameron and Hidalgo in the Rio Grande Valley, are mourning over a huge number of people relative to their population. Both counties are approximately 90% Hispanic.

Even in larger urban areas, some whiter and wealthier counties appear to be doing better than poorer counties with more diverse populations. Travis County has about 400,000 more residents than El Paso County, but fewer deaths, according to state data. According to census data, Travis County is approximately half white and one-third Hispanic, with an average household income of about $ 76,000 annually; El Paso County is 83% Hispanic, with an average household income of about $ 44,000 annually.

And the actual number of deaths from the virus is almost certainly higher than reported; For experts, the question is how much.

The state may be showing a particular count in Hidalgo, a majority Hispanic county in the Rio Grande Valley that is being devastated by COVID-19. County health officials, using local medical records, report 576 deaths; The state, which now has death certificates, revised its count for the county from more than 450 to 302. Local officials said the difference is due to delays in issuing death certificates.

Meanwhile, Vishwanatha said, access to evidence has been more limited in communities of color.

Pointing to local data from North Texas, Vishwanatha said there is a disparity between communities of color and white groups not only in the possibility of infection but also in the possibility of dying from the disease. The chasm is even wider for the mortality rate than for the infection rate.

“We are currently facing a critical situation in which some of our communities are really suffering. We need to do everything possible to overcome these disparities. But hopefully this COVID situation has revealed something that we should have been addressing all along: how to overcome these chronic health disparities in our communities, ”said Vishwanatha.

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