by Betty L. Martin
HOUSTON, March 16 (Xinhua) -- Monica Hernandez is acutely aware that Hispanics in Texas, the second-largest U.S. state, are contracting or dying of the coronavirus at a disproportionately higher rate.
Hernandez, a sales associate in Houston, who immigrated to the United States from her native Columbia 13 years ago, had been infected with COVID-19 when her unvaccinated 3-year-old son passed it along after contracting it -- as did his teachers and eight of his 11 classmates -- as he began pre-school in January.
"I was always very careful, but at the end of 2021, it seemed like everyone was getting COVID-19," the 44-year-old mother said.
Hispanic Texans make up about 39 percent of the state's population, but 42 percent of the state's confirmed 86,673 COVID-19 deaths, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
A recent study from Rice University showed that early reporting of COVID-19 infections and deaths in Texas were disproportionately concentrated in Black and Hispanic communities.
Published this month in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, the study's findings reveal a "clear issue of race and existing inequalities in health care" exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The study found that this racial disparity is evidenced by the distribution of doses in the state's five largest counties with urban centers as the vaccine rollout was beginning. As the number of blacks and Hispanics increased within a zip code, the number of vaccine sites and doses decreased.
"This valuable resource was not distributed evenly across urban areas, with limited access to populations already at risk for complications from the virus," the study said.
Hernandez said she had seen COVID-19 as an indiscriminating illness, affecting all races and ethnicities in Texas alike, but does wonder if the insufficient rollout of anti-COVID vaccines might account for the higher proportions of illnesses and deaths within Black and Hispanic neighborhoods.
"If there's a difference, I would also blame it on Texas's and the country's extremely opportunistic health-care services and not-so-accessible insurance coverage practices," she said.
Hernandez believed that what happened in Texas is a microcosm of the whole country.
The United States has reported 82,468,606 confirmed cases and 999,602 related deaths as of Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University's dashboard.
Hispanics account for 24.8 percent of COVID-19 cases and 16.1 percent of related deaths in the country, yet the Hispanic population is only 18.7 percent of the total population, according to the data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued earlier this month.
"I can't believe that a world power with the resources it has can't provide decent health insurance to cover every person," Hernandez said.
"Then also, a lot of people from immigrant populations are scared to go to doctors or hospitals. Many people have died because of being afraid to go to a hospital and to get immunizations for fear they'll be turned in to immigration authorities and sent back," she added. ■