Austin Public Health officials say they plan to increase support to Latino community, where coronavirus hospitalizations are up

A photo of the Travis County headquarters sign
As of May 26, 76 Hispanic individuals in Travis County were hospitalized with COVID-19. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)

As of May 26, 76 Hispanic individuals in Travis County were hospitalized with COVID-19. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)

Austin Public Health officials said they are preparing a strengthened task force to support Travis County’s Latino community navigate the coronavirus pandemic following a continued upswing in the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests among Latinos.

After Dr. Mark Escott, the Austin-Travis County interim health authority, said the local area’s coronavirus outbreak was “concentrated around our Latinx community” at a meeting of the Travis County Commissioners Court earlier in the week, he and other health officials fielded questions about plans to address the outbreak among Latinos in a May 27 press conference.

“During this response, our work has led with an equity lens,” APH Director Stephanie Hayden said. “The department has partnered with the chief equity officer, and we have also started to collect some information from some of our Hispanic leaders. We will continue that process to collect that information from them, and as a community, we are going to develop a plan.”

As of May 26, APH data showed coronavirus-related hospitalizations among Hispanic individuals accounted for nearly 78% of total hospitalizations in the Travis County area, while the Hispanic and Latino population in Travis County only accounts for 33.88% of the total population.

Furthermore, the number of Hispanic individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 has ballooned since May 20, when 62 hospitalized cases were reported by APH. In the same time, hospitalizations among White and Black individuals have declined.

According to Hayden, efforts to aid the Latino community during the pandemic will be led by the county’s Education and Community cabinet, a team of city employees and elected officials that will “continue to work with a community engagement process” to hear from Latino community leaders. In terms of specific actions by the team, Hayden said there would be “more to come.”

“We know it is very important as we are doing the work that we do to partner with our community-based partners that have those relationships in these communities. Whether it’s Latinx or African-American or Asian populations, it’s important for us to have those ongoing partnerships,” Hayden said.

Jack Flagler contributed to this report.
By Olivia Aldridge

Reporter, Central Austin

Olivia joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in March 2019. She covers public health, business, development and Travis County government. A graduate of Presbyterian College in South Carolina, Olivia worked as a reporter and producer for South Carolina Public Radio before moving to Texas. Her work has appeared on NPR and in the New York Times.