Essential workers, missed messages: COVID is raging through Houston’s Hispanic communities
As María Sarat rushed to her brother’s apartment in the early morning hours Monday, she knew that neither the prayers of his wife and six children back home in western Guatemala nor the natural medicine she had brewed were working.
Alfonso Sarat, 47, had developed a persistent cough days before, and felt so fatigued he had fallen asleep in his car between shifts as a dishwasher and kitchen assistant at two different restaurants. But he couldn’t afford to see a doctor and was fearful of exposing himself as living in the U.S. illegally.
When María Sarat saw her brother, she wept, and, shaking, embraced him. He was so pale. The four men with whom he shared a westside apartment were paralyzed, fearful of authorities, of deportation. But she called 911.
“If we flat out have nothing left,” she said, “let’s see how God could help.”
The coronavirus is raging through Hispanic communities in the Houston area, data show, and has local leaders worried that public health messaging urging residents to wear masks and maintain social distance has not reached some of the most vulnerable residents.
Beginning in late May, Harris County Public Health data gathered outside the city of Houston show rapid case growth among Hispanic residents, far outpacing the virus’ spread among other ethnic groups. Between half and 65 percent of all those hospitalized with the virus each week during this period also were Hispanic.
State officials have not released comprehensive racial and ethnic data on COVID-19 cases, but a snapshot from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration of 14,471 Texans tested on July 3 showed Hispanic patients made up 37 percent of those tested and 72 percent of the positive tests.