The impact of COVID-19 on Texas communities

COVID in Texas 2
Harris County Health Department nurse Harriet Lewis administers COVID. – Photo by Reggie Mathalone/The Texas Tribune

 

The Texas Tribune and The Dallas Examiner

 

As of Monday, Texas has reported 956,234 cases in 253 counties since the pandemic began. At least 6,080 patients with confirmed coronavirus infections have been hospitalized. Though some hospitals may be missing from the daily counts, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. The state reported 12,255 available staffed hospital beds, including 1,000 available staffed ICU beds statewide. COVID-19 patients currently occupy 9.5% of total hospital beds.

On Monday, Dallas County Health and Human Services reported 1,248 additional positive cases, bringing its total to 103,184 cases.

“Today our numbers continue their steep increase with 1,248 new cases of COVID-19 and two deaths,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said. “We can turn this around if we all work together. We know what we need to do. We just need to do it. Please avoid crowds and wear your mask at all times. I know people are tired of COVID and ready to turn the page to a happier time, but we will need to continue to put community health and our economy above our selfish desires for a little while longer. The steep rise in cases that we’re seeing seriously threatens those with high-risk health conditions among us and can have a terrible effect on our economy going into this important holiday shopping season if we don’t all do our part. Please follow the doctors’ recommendations.”

As of Saturday, Texas has administered at least 9,659,272 tests for the coronavirus since March. The number of Texans who have gotten a test is unknown because some people are tested more than once. The state’s tally also does not include pending tests.

 

Impact on minority communities

The limited data released by state health officials offers a murky glimpse of the virus’ impact on Texas communities of color. Race and ethnicity are reported as unknown for a significant portion of the completed case reports.

Agency officials said some people prefer not to provide the information.

Case data gathered in various parts of the state shows the disproportionate impact of the virus on Black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

African Americans – who make up 14% of the population in Texas made up 16% of the COVID cases and 10.8% of the COVID deaths, while Hispanics – who make up 38.2% of the state’s population – made up 39.6% of the cases and 54% of the deaths.

In Dallas County, lower-income Black communities have also reported some of the highest positivity rates. The areas with the highest positivity rates in Harris County are predominantly Hispanic, according to a UTHealth School of Public Health analysis.

And some regions of the state with the highest mortality rates have a large Hispanic share of the population, particularly in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas.

 

Impact on Texas students

COVID cases in youth 4 through 18 years old have been rising steadily since in-person school opened across the state. By the end of August, when many schools were slowly transitioning from online only to a combination of online and in-person learning, the state reported going from 2 to 586 students who had tested positive for the virus, and from 30 to 581 staff who tested positive. As of Monday, the state has over 3,000 students and at least 1,755 staff – including 85 central staff – who had tested positive.

Schools in Dallas County have also experienced a steep incline. Dallas ISD alone reported having 411 students and 412 staff who tested positive for COVID-19, as of Monday. At 387 positive cases, the largest group of students and staff were in elementary schools. District 7 had the largest number of cases over all, with 130 individuals. And the areas most affected were in the 75211 (at 59), 75229 (at 55), 75214 (at 51) ZIP codes.

 

How many people have died?

The first death linked to the coronavirus in Texas occurred March 16 in Matagorda County. As of Sunday, 18,743 people across the state who tested positive for the virus have died.

On July 27, DSHS began reporting deaths based on death certificates that state the cause of death as COVID-19 instead of relying on counts released by local and regional health departments. On that date, the state added more than 400 previously unreported deaths to the cumulative total. This does not include the deaths of people with COVID-19 who died of an unrelated cause. Death certificates are required by law to be filed within 10 days.

Because of this change, it’s impossible to compare the rate of deaths before and after July 27.

Experts said the official state death toll is likely an undercount.

 

Data from the Texas Department of State Health Services was used to track how many people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Texas each day. The state data comes from 57 city and county health departments, about 600 hospitals and 340 laboratories and the state vital records registration. It may not represent all cases of the disease given limited testing.

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