Escott: Central Texas officials to provide racial, ethnic breakdown of coronavirus hospitalizations, deaths by end of week

Dr. Mark Escott speaks to reporters during a news conference March 6 at Austin City Hall. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Dr. Mark Escott speaks to reporters during a news conference March 6 at Austin City Hall. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

Dr. Mark Escott speaks to reporters during a news conference March 6 at Austin City Hall. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that coronavirus hospitalizations rates for African Americans in the United States are disproportionately high.

According to a CDC report published April 8 tracking 580 coronavirus hospitalizations in which racial and ethnic data was available from March 1-30, 33% of hospitalized patients were black, much higher than the 12.7% of the American population who is black.

A report from the Pew Research Center published April 14 shows that 15% of the American population knows someone who has been hospitalized or died as a result of the coronavirus, but among black adults that rate is 27%.

Austin and Travis County health officials are not sharing race or ethnicity information with the public when it comes to hospitalizations and deaths, but Austin-Travis County interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said he expects those statistics to be available by the end of the week.

Escott said health officials want to be transparent with the public because they understand communities of color and low-income communities have a disadvantage in accessing health care services.


“We want to be as transparent as we can, because we, too, are concerned about the effect on minorities in our community,” Escott said.

The city and county are sharing race and ethnicity data for all positive coronavirus cases. According to data updated April 13, 78% of all positive cases have been white individuals, 10% black and 4% Asian, with the remaining cases classified as "other" or "unknown." According to the data, 37% of those who have tested positive are of Hispanic ethnicity.

Those numbers track pretty closely to Austin’s overall racial and ethnic demographics. According to U.S. Census five-year estimates from 2018, the city is 73.5% white, 7.8% black and 7.3% Asian—the remaining 11.4% is classified as either American Indian and Alaska Native alone, some other race or two or more races. Ethnicity data shows that 34.3% are Hispanic or Latino—Hispanic individuals can be of any race, according to the census.

While racial and ethnic disparities have not shown up in the coronavirus data yet, Ted Burton, Central Health vice president of communications, said the Travis County health care district is working to make sure it reaches communities of color and low-income communities with underlying conditions that make them more susceptible to the virus.

Some of the strategies to reach those communities, Burton said, include follow-up calls with patients who test positive at CommUnityCare clinics, partnering with the Central Texas Food Bank to deliver items to those food-insecure individuals who need to self-quarantine, compiling a list of resources for communities in eastern Travis County and finding alternative ways to reach individuals who do not have internet access.

Even though racial and ethnic disparities do not show up in the coronavirus data locally yet as they have in other areas of the country, Escott said officials need to keep at-risk individuals in low-income communities and communities of color at the forefront—even when the pandemic passes.

“We know these communities are going to be more heavily impacted, and we want to make sure everybody understands that. We are at some stage going to move on from COVID-19, but those inequities are going to be there, and we have to work hard to address those issues,” he said.

Correction: In the original version of this story, Central Health vice president of communications Ted Burton was misattributed as Ted Foster.
By Jack Flagler
Jack is the editor of Community Impact Newspaper's Central Austin and Southwest Austin editions. He began his career as a sports reporter in Massachusetts and North Carolina before moving to Austin in 2018. He grew up in Maine and graduated from Boston University, but prefers tacos al pastor to lobster rolls. You can get in touch at jflagler@communityimpact.com


MOST RECENT

The Delco Activity Center in Northeast Austin is one of the locations where residents can receive a COVID-19 vaccine. (Jack Flalger/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin vaccine updates: Demand slows as state begins marketing push

Appointments are beginning to go unfilled, and local health officials say demand has caught up to supply. All adults in the U.S. are now eligible to be vaccinated.

Blue Corn Harvest Leander is located at 11840 Hero Way W., Bldg. A, Leander. (Taylor Girtman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Blue Corn Harvest opens in Leander; park, pizzeria launches social club and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

Photo of two performers on an outdoor SXSW stage
South by Southwest sells ownership stake in company to Rolling Stone owner Penske Media Corp.

SXSW leadership called the sale a "lifeline" for the conference and festivals.

Photo of people receiving vaccines in a gym
Austin Public Health lengthens windows for vaccine appointment signups

Residents age 18 and up can now sign up for appointments with APH any time from Saturday to Tuesday morning.

Austin Anthem watch party
Crowds of fans converge on North Austin to watch inaugural Austin FC game

Breweries around Q2 Stadium in North Austin brought in large outdoor screens and new employees to host fans of Austin FC for the team's historic first match.

Austin Police Department
UPDATE: Loop 360 closed in both directions in Northwest Austin due to a shooting incident

Residents who live in the Arboretum area in Northwest Austin are advised to shelter in place.

Early voting for the May 1 election opens April 19 at a 7 a.m. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Early voting in Austin opens April 19: See what’s on the ballot, where to vote

City residents will be making decisions on eight propositions ranging from whether to adopt a strong mayor government system to whether to reinstate public camping bans.

Austin transportation officials said April 15 the range of corridor construction program projects initiated through the city's 2016 Mobility Bond remain on track for completion by late 2024. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Several Austin corridor mobility projects moving forward in 2021, program on track for 2024 completion

Transportation officials said some corridor program improvements previously planned along Guadalupe Street and East Riverside Drive are being reduced ahead of Project Connect expansions.

Jack Allen's Kitchen will be at 1345 E. Whitestone Blvd., Cedar Park. (Rendering courtesy Jack Allen's Kitchen)
7 restaurants coming to Cedar Park, Leander; new murals to go up in Georgetown and more top area news

Read the top business and community news from the Central Texas area from the past week.

The program, which began this week in San Marcos, gives Amazon and Whole Foods employees and contractors direct access to COVID-19 vaccinations. (Courtesy Amazon)
Amazon begins rollout of statewide vaccination clinics for employees

The program, which began this week in San Marcos, gives Amazon and Whole Foods employees and contractors direct access to COVID-19 vaccinations.

Photo of a home for sale
Central Austin housing market remains steep as area median home price reaches all-time high

Home prices in the Austin-Round Rock area have climbed more than 28% in the past year.

Residents ride bikes on Shoal Creek Boulevard in this photo from February 2020. Austin Water is taking on a project to replace water and wastewater lines in the Allandale neighborhood. (jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Water line construction project begins in Allandale neighborhood

Once the improvements are made, customers can expect water and wastewater outages typically lasting a few hours as their service is connected to the new lines.