Editorial

The pandemic has used its horrible virus to bring out inequities in our community.

The inequities have been there for generations, but the pandemic is forcing us to take notice and look for ways to help work toward more equal footing for all.

As more people are tested for COVID-19, and the number of cases increased by more than 400% in June, a disproportionate number of people of color have been hospitalized with the disease and died of the virus than their white counterparts.

Latino and Black community members, in particular, are bearing a disproportionate brunt of the pandemic.

Latinos make up 47.8% of Victoria County’s population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But data from the health department showed that they accounted for 59% of COVID-19 hospitalizations with the virus, as of July 2.

Making up 6.6% of the county population, Black residents accounted for 4% of COVID-19 cases.

Non-Hispanic white residents, who represent 43.9% of the population, accounted for 27% of COVID-19 cases, 30% of hospitalizations.

“Disproportionately, Hispanics have been more affected by hospitalizations, mortality and in general,” said Brittney Burgess, Victoria County’s epidemiologist.

The disproportionate impact on communities of color is not the result of biological underpinnings, behavioral failings or moral failings, said Dr. Wizdom Powell, director of the Health Disparities Institute at the University of Connecticut.

“What is actually happening is that it is the conditions where racial and ethnic minorities find themselves living, working, playing, praying, getting their education and getting health care that puts them at higher risk,” she said. “These are longstanding, systemic issues.”

These issues have led ethnic minorities to more likely find themselves living in crowded households and food deserts, working in essential roles with more risk of exposure and lacking access to affordable housing, transportation and adequate health care.

Most Census-based studies show the United States will be a non-white Hispanic, Latino, Black and African-American-majority country by 2045.

A 2018 statistics project shows by the U.S. Census shows the nation will become “minority white” in 2045. During that year, whites will comprise 49.7 % of the population in contrast to 24.6 %t for Hispanics, 13.1 % for blacks, 7.9 % for Asians, and 3.8 % for multiracial populations.

If we do not fully address the health care disparities now, the majority of the country’s workforce will suffer, which in the end will hurt the economy. Ultimately it will keep the United States from being able to compete in the global economy, experts have said.

The solution to the problem that has existed for many generations won’t come overnight. It will take the work of the community, the city, the state to educate and help people improve their living conditions and lives in general.

Some groups in Victoria are working to help lessen the disparities, but it will take more work than a few groups can offer to close the resource gaps that have been identified by those already working on the problem.

Be Well Victoria, a grant program through the Victoria County Health Department, is working to bring awareness and to help people not only with mental health issues but also health care needs.

The Southside Community Coalition is working to bring awareness to the needs of this part of the city. Providing masks to residents is one project it has done since the pandemic struck in March.

The Coalition is also providing meals to residents of the neighborhood on Wednesdays and Fridays.

It is also exploring how to bring a neighborhood grocery to the area so residents, many of whom do not have transportation, do not have to travel as far to buy groceries.

Others are working as well. Christ’s Kitchen continues to serve hot meals to those in need. Since the pandemic started, they are serving about 700 meals a day, with the help of others in the community.

Others are working as well.

Medical care offered at free or reduced rates would go a long way to help establish a healthier community.

In Victoria County, the Victoria Community Health Center is the only clinic designed to serve the uninsured.

During 2019, more than two-thirds of the center’s patients did not have health insurance or had Medicare or Medicaid, according to data from the center. The majority of its patients were people of color.

The center is looking at issues that keep people from getting the healthcare they need such as lack of transportation to get to the clinic, lack of housing or lack of ability to pay. It is looking at steps it can take to help get the patient past with those issues.

This is a step in the right direction as the problem was not caused by one particular element.

But we as communities of nonprofits, medical providers, everyday volunteers and service providers have to work together to make it happen.

We have to work together to correct the disparities for not only the health and well being of our neighbors, but for the future and economic growth of our country.

This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate’s editorial board.

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