AUSTIN, Texas — Data show the Hispanic community makes up nearly a third of COVID-19 related deaths in Texas and 66 percent of hospitalizations in the Austin area.
What You Need To Know
Hispanics make up a third of COVID-19 deaths
Task force trying to bring the numbers down
LatinX advocates want to be included in task force
Health officials in Austin are moving forward with a new task force designed to bring those numbers down.
“You know our goal is to make sure our community is safe and that we are protecting those most vulnerable, so we will continue with that charge,” said Austin Public Health’s Dr. Janet Pichette during a Wednesday call with journalists.
Some advocates say these disproportionate numbers are a result of inadequate testing and outreach in these communities and that this new task force needs to focus on bringing tests to those communities.
“We need to get more testing out there. We have to get more people tested in order to be able to mitigate the number of Latinos with coronavirus,” said Gavino Fernandez Jr., of LULACs Austin chapter.
Even with this new task force, some feel it may not go far enough. Advocates from Hispanic Advocates Business Leaders of Austin are fighting to be included in that task force and they say their background can help curb the numbers. They cite cultural data that highlights why LatinX people are considered to be more at risk.
“The Latino community is more susceptible to chronic diseases, diabetes, heart conditions. So that in itself is an indicator that we need to do more effective outreach,” said Lourdes Zuniga of HABLA.
Advocates suspect it has to do with the nature of jobs in that community, and the multi-generational family structure at home.
“There’s a high concentration of families in each unit and if they are on the front lines working, they go home and they are potentially putting at risk the rest of the family,” she said.
For Zuniga, her mission to improve outreach in the community is rooted in her own beginnings.
“Being an immigrant and having gone through the process of the hardships of naturalization – I think that in a way it’s a reason it moves me to advocate for these communities,” she said.
Zuniga, a Peru native, says her 2016 naturalization journey shed light on the challenges of living and working in the states.
“I came highly educated from my country, and it was even then very difficult to navigate the systems. So I can’t imagine how difficult it is for our immigrant community to navigate not just the system, but this crisis in general,” she said.
Twenty-one advocates, many from HABLA, are pushing for inclusion in Austin’s task force with plans by some to take their call directly to Thursday’s City Council meeting.