2016 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. Federally qualied health centers, such as Legacy Community Health, which oer medical services to under- and uninsured residents, were some of the rst to identify high-volume clinics that needed testing resources. One of its rst testing centers was set up near its southwest Houston clinic. “We know a lot of our families have multiple family members in a smaller place. ... It can spread very quickly,” Legacy Chief Medical Ocer Dr. Vian Nguyen said. “So we were very focused on getting the education out about social distancing and how it is not as easy for someone who can’t lock them- selves in their own room.” Rodriguez said she has worked with other com- munitymembers and area propertymanagers to dis- tribute information about the virus in some of the dozens of languages commonly spoken in the area. As more local data was compiled, health ocials began to see troubling trends among communities of color and older residents. As of April 14, predictions about the risk factor for severe infections are ringing true among the city’s reported deaths. As of press time, all 23 reported deaths were attributed to people with underlying medical conditions, and 19 of those deaths were among those over the age of 60. “When I look at my numbers, there have been people who have died in their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and
of Emergency Medicine Dr. David Persse told City Council members April 8. “As a nation, we have got to do something to address that because here is the consequences of those decades of disparities that are coming into play and impacting people’s lives that really should never have occurred.” While early neighborhood-level data shows much of southwest Houston on the lower end of Houston’s highest coronavirus infection rates per capita, some public health ocials caution against forming con- clusions based on the cases reported in a city that was slow to receive the means necessary to conduct large-scale testing. “The number of those who get diagnosed depends on who has access to getting a test, and we already know there are social disparities in health care,” Persse said. As of April 20, the Gulfton area had 7 cases per 10,000 residents, and Meyerland has 18 cases per 10,000 residents. Because Gulfton is so dense—with a population close to 55,000—its estimated total case count of close to 40, according to ZIP-code level data, looks smaller in comparison. Bellaire, West University Place and Southside Place each had fewer than 1 case per 10,000 residents. In anticipation of various disparities in access to care, Legacy Community Health set up one of its rst testing sites in southwest Houston in earlyMarch and expanded to oering testing at all eight of its clinics in Houston by March 31. “We had the structure in place to handle this,” Nguyen said. “We have patients who can’t pay any- thing, and we still are able to commit to providing care for them.” One of the most eective ways to stem the spread of the coronavirus is by wearing a face covering, pub- lic health ocials have said. When Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo enacted an order to require residents to wear masks in pub- lic through the month of May, some were concerned about those who would face penalties for not wear- ing one when information and resources are limited in some communities. In response, Harris County constables, Houston City Council members and Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale arranged free mask giveaways throughout the city. As the state begins to reopen some segments of the economy, ocials need to monitor high-risk mem- bers of the community, Turner said. The city of Houston established a task force of city, community and health care system representatives April 23 to coordinate an outreach campaign that pro- vides public health education, masks and supplies for the city’s under-served communities. A Health Equity Response Fund was also established to collect donations for the eorts. “As we restart and move forward, we must ensure those vulnerable populations are not left behind,” Turner said. Matt Dulin and Hunter Marrow contributed to this report.
90s and in some cases below that,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “So the focus right now should be on saving people’s lives. ... In this case patience can save, if not your own life, then some- body else’s.” Of the rst 23 residents to die from the coronavi- rus in Houston, 52% were African American, 26% were Hispanic and 22% were white. In Houston as a whole, however, 22% of the population is Afri- can American, 44% is Hispanic and 24% is white, according to census data. In the Gulfton area, specif- ically, 70% of the population is Hispanic, according to a 2017 Kinder Institute report. “There is the fear of even leaving your home at this point,” Nguyen said. “They are aware that it’s getting serious, and they don’t even want to get care to manage chronic illness. ... Some patients have called to ask if they tested positive that we report that to [Immigration and Customs Enforcement].” Directing resources While the numbers are still too low to draw broader trends about who is experiencing the most severe eects of the coronavirus in Houston, public health ocials sounded the alarm about communi- ties that could be facing them already. “There is a disproportionate number of African Americans that appear to be suering from the worst consequences of the virus,” Houston Director
who is at M O S T R I S K ?
F R E E T E S T I N G C L I N I C S
Free tests within the city of Houston are oered at some drive-thru and walk-up sites. While there are more places to receive testing, these sites are the ones most accessible to those without health insurance. Drive-thru
Anyone is at risk of contracting the coronavirus, but those who have certain underlying conditions, illnesses or other vulnerabilities are more likely to suer from the most severe consequences of the virus, such as hospitalization and death, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Older people including those who are:
1 Houston Health Department Butler Stadium, 13755 S. Main St., Houston 2 Delmar Stadium 2020 Mangum Road, Houston 3 United Memorial Medical Center 501 Tidwell Road, Houston 4 Forest Brook Middle School 525 Tidwell Road, Houston
65 and older Living in a nursing home or long-term care facility
People of any age with underlying conditions such as:
5 Cullen Middle School 6900 Scott St., Houston 6 Walgreens 14531 Westheimer Road, Houston 7 Barnett Stadium 6800 Fairway Drive, Houston
Lung disease Moderate to severe asthma Serious heart conditions
People with compromised immune systems caused by any of the following:
Ongoing cancer treatment A smoking habit A bone marrow or organ transplant Poorly managed HIV or AIDS infections Severe obesity Chronic kidney disease Prolonged use of corticosteroids or immune weakening medication General immune deciencies
8 Legacy Community Health A Bissonnet, 12667 Bissonnet St., Houston B Fifth Ward, 3811 Lyons Ave., Houston C Mapleridge, 6550 Mapleridge St., Houston D Montrose, 1415 California St., Houston E Northline, 5598-A1 North Freeway, Houston F Santa Clara, Lawndale St., Houston G Sharpstown, 6677 Rookin St., Houston H Southwest, 6441 High Star Drive, Houston
For more information, visit communityimpact.com .
SOURCE: CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
BELLAIRE MEYERLAND WEST UNIVERSITY EDITION • MAY 2020
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